To run the UMAPNY software, you must have Microsoft's Silverlight installed on your computer. If you do not, when you go to UMAPNY you will be prompted through a simple and fairly quick process that allows you to download it.

Once Silverlight is installed and the UMAPNY program opens, you will come face to face with a dazzling array of options and information. Playing around with the functions is going to help you far more than written directions, and directions and help are available in the program itself, but here are some guidelines:

-- The mapping program allows you to look at and work with maps for congressional districts, all senate and assembly districts statewide and the county legislative district maps for Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester.

You pick which of these you want to view, or design, by checking boxes on the right of the screen.

-- Within each of these categories you can see the current maps, derived from the 2000 Census, and the maps created by Common Cause NY, which illustrate one vision of contiguous, non-gerrymandered new election lines that should meet state and federal criteria. Again, you choose by checking boxes on the right side of the display.

-- As soon as the proposed New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment maps are released by State Legislature, those maps will be downloaded onto the site.

Also visible is a wealth of information, obtained by moving your cursor, on the election districts and voting precincts you will be looking at. From racial makeup to the percentage of voters who cast ballots Democrat or Republican in recent elections, it's all there.

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-- By checking the appropriate combinations of largely self-explanatory boxes on the UMAPNY display, you can also choose what kind of districts you want to work on, if you'd like to make your own map.

-- You can start, in each case, with the old maps, the Common Cause maps or the Nassau, Suffolk or Westchester maps drawn by for Newsday by the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach at SUNY New Paltz. Your other options are the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment maps (once they are made available) or a blank slate showing the area you want to map but no electoral dividing lines at all. This last is a very difficult starting point, and it's likely one you won't want to attempt until you've played around and learned the system fairly well.

-- Once you've finished your map, you can save it as a pdf, then print it or share it by email as an attachment. b.

This is a new project for us and a new program for you, and there are bound to be issues that arise and improvements that we add. We will be working throughout to perfect the site and would welcome any questions or comments at lane.filler@newsday.com.

See interactive electoral maps