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  • Kosowsky Assignment 1

Julia Kosowsky

Assignment 1

UEP 232


Voting rights/ voter disenfranchisement



I am very interested in exploring the Voting Rights Act and topics having to do with voter disenfranchisement. The Voting Rights Act is particularly relevant right now because section 4, which contains the formula that decides which states need to get federal approval to change voting rights laws, was recently struck down. The supreme court is now in the process of determining what new formula should be used. Aside from the Voting Rights Act, states have recently been passing voter ID laws which specifically restrict low-income voters and People of Color. A recent ID law in Texas had a large effect on the voting abilities of women, because it required individuals to have their current legal name on their ID, which often is not true for women who changed their last name for marriage. Throughout history this injustice of voter disenfranchisement has changed and developed in different ways, another potential avenue of exploration.


Spatial/geographic questions:

There are multiple spatial/ geographic questions that could be asked about voter disenfranchisement. The first question could be an attempt to create and visually display potential formulas for the new section 4 that is being developed. This would need to include data on what kind of discriminatory practices have taken place in those states and other variables. Another question could revolve around the effect of this disenfranchisement on voting patterns, based on voting districts and the electoral college. Another interesting spatial/geographic question could involve this disenfranchisement over time, and the different forms it has taken.


References (APA):

1.       Voting Rights Act Map. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2014, from

  1. This article gives examples of different potential formulas for section 4 and shows how they can be visually displayed on a map. A project along these lines but using different formulas and going into further detail is an example of a spatial/ geographical question to ask about voting rights.

2.       Efforts to Change Voting Laws. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2014, from

  1. This is also a map that displays different efforts to change voting laws, again a great example of the type of project that I am potentially interested in doing.

3.       Voting Rights. (n.d.). American Civil Liberties Union . Retrieved January 29, 2014, from

  1. If I want to do a project about voter disenfranchisement in general this website is extremely useful. It keeps the reader up to date on all recent disenfranchisement policies. It also has multiple articles on the Voting Rights Act if I chose to take that path. 


Health Equity and the Built Environment



Another topic that I am very interested in exploring is something to do with health equity and the built environment. The built environment has a huge effect on the health of the population. Environmental hazards and built structures that encourage healthy activity, are very unevenly distributed by race and income. The Boston Public Health Commission has put together a series of maps that display patterns of race and income, overlayed with patterns of chronic disease, environmental hazards, and green space. The inequity is extremely clear and the visual maps help show these trends in an undeniable and impossible to ignore manner.  When exploring the GIS suggestion website I liked the idea of combining a lot of the work done in the spatial justice section with work from the health section. I am very unsure which specific project would be feasible, and I am still waiting to hear back from a professor who does this type of work and might have something that she needs mapped.


Spatial/geographic questions:

This project could include many different things, and I am still in the process of narrowing it down. Some ideas that come to mind would be looking at environmental hazards and what effects this has on chronic disease (for example trash receptacle or MBTA locations and asthma rates or lead poisoning patterns). Another very interesting topic is access to transportation and how this impedes the ability to buy healthy food and live a healthy, safe, lifestyle.


References (APA):

  1. Maantay, J. 2007. Asthma and air pollution in the Bronx: Methodological and data considerations in using GIS for environmental justice and health research. Health and Place , 13 (1), pp. 32-56
    1. This paper used GIS to show patterns of asthma and air pollution in the Bronx. This offers a potential model for me to follow if I want to do a health equity and the built environment project focusing on asthma.
    1. The regional equity atlas offers multiple different examples of how equity can be mapped. This is another place where, once I get more specifics of this project, I could find potential resources and ideas of how to proceed. It also does things with voting rights so I could use it for my other potential project as well.
  3. Jennifer Rogalsky. 2009. The working poor and what GIS reveals about the possibilities of public transit Journal of Transport Geography , In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 24 July 2009
    1. In her study, Rogalsky uses GIS to analyze the true geographic obstacles in working poor women’s lives. I found this to be a particularly interesting example of how GIS can be used to show a more realistic view of many of the theoretical and more abstract conversations that are discussed regarding transportation. This also served as an example of a project that I might be interested in and could be incorporated into a project that looks at transportation and public health.


Reproductive Health Care Access



A final topic that I am interested in is access to reproductive health care, again I have no idea how feasible this would be. This past year has seen serious setbacks in the ability for women to access reproductive health care (including, but not limited to, abortions). Laws that restrict the ability for women to access this health care vary geographically. There are also many factors aside from technical laws that limit this access for women; transportation, access to information, cultural and social pressures, etc.


Spatial/geographic questions:

Again, there are numerous spatial and geographic questions to be asked. What demographic of women are most affected by laws restricting access? Who is most affected by other factors restricting access? What options would need to be available, be most helpful in helping more women gain access? 


References (APA):

  1. Heard, N. J., Larsen, U., & Hozumi, D. (2004). Investigating Access to Reproductive Health Services Using GIS: Proximity to Services and the Use of Modern Contraceptives in Malawi. African Journal of Reproductive Health / La Revue Africaine de La Santé Reproductive , 8 (2), 164–179. doi:10.2307/3583189
    1. This was a GIS research project that did some of the work I am interested in doing in the US but in Malawi. The researchers located medical centers and mapped how far this would be from, and what types of transportation would be available to, women in surrounding areas.
  2. McLafferty, S., & Grady, S. (2005). Immigration and Geographic Access to Prenatal Clinics in Brooklyn, NY: A Geographic Information Systems Analysis. American Journal of Public Health , 95 (4), 638–640. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2003.033985
    1. This project gives a great example of a type of project that I might do exploring what demographics have the greatest access to reproductive health care. In this case immigrant and US born women were compared.