A new contest is coming! 6 great reasons to make your own map

Chris Satullo

Indiana County youths start their map on District Builder | Image Credit: Susan Wheatley

It’s challenging. It takes hours to finish. It won’t make a difference anyway. Those are some of the most commonly cited reasons for NOT drawing and entering a map in the Draw the Lines PA competition.

Maybe you’re nodding your head at one or more of them.

But enough grumpiness. (What are you, a Flyers fan?)

Consider, if you will, these six really great reasons why you should indeed make a map:

1) "They" don't think you can

“They” are the politicians who run Harrisburg (often into the ground).  For a very long while, they’ve had a death grip on the mapping pen.  And the work they’ve done with that pen routinely gets blasted by courts as blatantly partisan and unconstitutional.

Despite their failures, the pols like to pretend that they are the only people on the planet with the savvy to draw election lines.  They solemnly claim that regular folks, people like you, just aren’t capable of grasping all the nuances of the task.

This is hogwash.  Draw the Lines is proving that.  You can help make the case.   Every finished map is a blazing lamp, pointing the way to the truth.

Become one of the hundreds (soon to be thousands) of citizen mappers who are showing that the average voter can do this core task of democracy better (not “just as well,” better) than the political pros.

2) Sure, it's challenging; so is sudoku

Why do people tackle mind-bending number puzzles? Or the Sunday Times crossword? Because taking on the challenge is fun; it keeps your brain sharp.  Getting your map right on our online tool, DistrictBuilder, is just like solving a big, digital-age jigsaw puzzle.  And once you get the hang of the Polygon Select button (hint: that’s a key to success), you too can master the DTL challenge.  Then, when DistrictBuilder validates your map … it feels soooooo good.

3) Democracy is binge-worthy

C’mon, admit it.  You and your significant other have been known from time to time to curl up on the couch and watch multiple episodes of some TV series in one go. What was it last time?  Russian Doll? GOT? Killing Eve? Billions? Property Brothers?

All we’re saying is: For one night between now and our fall contest deadline of Dec. 12, binge democracy instead.

Make Ben Franklin proud, instead of just making Jeff Bezos richer.

4) College is expensive

If you’re a student, or the parent of one, that’s qualifies as the “No, duh!” statement of the age.

But, here's the thing: If you do make a map good enough to dazzle our judges for DTL’s youth or higher ed divisions, you could reap as much as $5,500 for that three-hour investment.  How many other ways can you spend your time for a potential return $1,800 or so per hour?

And this is a nice touch: DTL honors come as a prize, not a scholarship. So, no chance your victory will just result in a college knocking an equal amount off your aid package.

Yes, it’s true. We try to think of everything to make DTL work for you.

Some map fun at a DTL event | Image Credit: Linda Breitstein

5) It's time to discover Pennsylvania

Sure, you live in the Commonwealth – or attend school here. But do you really know all of its quiet wonders, its historic nooks and crannies?

Not many Philadelphians ever visit the quiet green mountains of McKean County or the rocky, history-rich fields of Adams County, as DTL did just a few days ago.

If you’re a city dweller prone to dismiss the middle part of the state as “the T” – or even nastier nicknames – you are missing out on a whole lot of history, sweet vistas and lovely people.

Similarly, if you just dismiss the state’s two big cities as the modern Sodom and Gomorrah, you are cheating yourself out of experiencing their dynamic vibe of culture, innovation and history.

Making a good map of our Pennsylvania will help you appreciate the breadth of our state's variety, the depth of its diversity.  The tool is loaded with demographic, political and topographic data.

Pennsylvania is your home. Get to know it better.  You’ll appreciate it more.

6)  Democracy needs you

In 1787, or so the story goes, a Philadelphia matron posed a question to Benjamin Franklin as the great man emerged from Independence Hall at the close of the Constitutional Convention: “Dr. Franklin, what have you given us?”

“A republic, madam,” Ben supposedly replied, “if you can keep it.”

Keeping the Republic is not a once and done task, assigned only to dusty historical figures in powdered wigs.

Each new age, each new generation of America is bequeathed the sacred duty anew.

At the moment, we in the U.S.A. of 2019 don’t seem to be doing too great a job of it.

Out of apathy, distractedness, fear, or a toxic taste for grievance-mongering and partisanship, we stifle the better angels of our national nature and unleash the dogs of division.

No, one little map done by your hands can’t undo all that. Your crafted lines can’t quell all the myriad threats to our democratic norms.

But it will make a statement. It will send a vital message.

It will say:  I care. I glimpse my duty. I embrace the demands of citizenship.  I offer my time, my voice, my effort and my mind to the work of the common good.  I am willing to do the work it takes to preserve the Republic from those who would toss it carelessly away.

Let us map, together.  If you seek our help in finishing the task, we’re eager to provide it.