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Plotting political boundaries on Google Maps

As I start to develop a database of politicians for a prototype of PolDB that I'm developing for the Apps for America contest, I will likely be using Google Maps to display state, county, and census boundaries. A good example of such maps to study is Webfoot Census Maps, which I found via Google Maps Mania: U.S. Census Bureau + Google Maps.

Of immediate interest to me is whether I can use Webfoot's Mapeteria: Map Colouring to quickly reproduce such maps as Stimulus Legislation, Breakdown by States – The Wall Street Journal Online, which color the US states according to some scalar value. I also wondered whether I can do almost as well using the Google Charts API, which I wrote about on ProgrammableWeb last year: Google Chart API’s New Schematic Maps.

Besides a potential quick win from using Mapeteria, I am looking in the medium term into techniques for creating Google Maps out of public data stored in the shapefile format. For example, I downloaded a shapefile for US states, which I now hope to convert to KML with fwtools.

In the longer term, I wonder whether it'd make sense to have alternatives besides Google Maps.  One that caught my eye recently is CloudMade » Introducing the CloudMade Developer Zone, which builds upon OpenStreetMap data.

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