DTL announces the honorees from its spring mapping competition

By DTL Staff

More than 400 mappers contributed to the 341 validated entries in DTL's spring competition.

Committee of Seventy CEO David Thornburgh speaks at the Feb. 6 Draw the Lines PA awards event.

A young whiz from Happy Valley, a talented trio from Wilkes University and a “polisci guy” from Erie are among the repeat honorees in the second public mapping competition of Draw the Lines PA.

We are announcing our roster of regional winners today, some of whom will go on to compete for statewide honors worth up to $5,000.  

Altogether, the 341 individual and team entries in the spring round are competing for $34,000 in prizes.

(Look here for a full list of honorees, with their bios, photos, maps, judges’ statements and essays. )

Kyle Hynes, a rising junior at State College High School, again took first place in the Central/Youth division – after he used that same honor last year as a springboard to being named the top youth mapper in the state.   (Meet Kyle on the latest episode of the DTL podcast.)

The Wilkes team of Gregory Chang, William Billingsley and Geraldine Ojukwu took top honors in the Higher Ed/East category, after winning second place statewide, worth $2,500, for their efforts last fall. 

Nathaniel Ropski, a political science instructor at Gannon University in Erie, was inspired by his honorable mention last fall to enter a blizzard of quality maps this spring, which earned him a second place and two honorable mentions in the West/Adult category.

These repeat honorees got plenty of competition from a wave of newcomers representing high schools such as Abington Heights near Scranton, Fox Chase near Pittsburgh, Indiana Area (Pa.) and St. Joseph’s Prep in Philly.  Abington Heights alone produced 64 maps, crafted by more than 100 students.  In all, maps came from 29 counties, 21 different high schools and 10 different colleges.

Mappers showed great creativity, too, drawing district lines based on factors such as watersheds, area codes and millennial population clusters.

Among the honorees is Carol Kuniholm, the leader of Fair Districts PA, the state's largest grassroots group advocating redistricting reform.

The maps were drawn on DistrictBuilder, a free, digital mapping tool developed for Draw the Lines by Azavea Inc. of Philadelphia.

“The top maps and accompanying essays that we saw in this round reached new heights of sophistication and thoughtfulness,” said Chris Satullo, DTL project director.  “Our goal has been to help Pennsylvania voters show that they are ready, willing and able to play a major role in drawing the state’s election maps for real in 2021.  Anyone who looks at the work of our spring honorees has to conclude: Point made. Case closed.”

These outstanding citizen-drawn maps arrive at a moment of ferment around redistricting reform in Pennsylvania. Several proposals calling for citizens panels to draw election maps are being discussed in the General Assembly. 

Wrapping up its work and expected to deliver recommendations by Labor Day is Gov. Wolf’s Special Commission on Redistricting Reform, chaired by David Thornburgh, CEO of the Committee of Seventy, which is DTL’s parent organization.

Thornburgh noted that a number of DTL mappers, including Kyle Hynes, provided compelling testimony during the nine public hearings the commission held this spring: 

“As we consider ideas to give voters more of a say in redistricting, it was so useful to be able to see the outstanding work these citizen mappers did and to hear from them how they did it and what they learned.”

Maps were evaluated by members of the project’s three regional steering committees, including former Superior Court Judge Maureen Lally-Green, former state Sen. Michael Brubaker and former U.S. Attorney Frederick Thieman.

Entries were judged on: the look of the map; its metrics for factors such as compactness, competitiveness and county splits; the quality of the accompanying essay, and the amount of outreach that went into the entry.

Entries that earned regional firsts or seconds now move onto judging for statewide prizes ($5,000 for first in an age group; $2,500 for second).  Those winners will be announced at an award event in the State Capitol on Sept. 24.

This year, the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation is sponsoring all the awards in the competition’s East/Youth Division.

In a new twist, Draw the Lines this summer will conduct online voting for a People’s Choice Award, worth $1,500.  You will get a chance to choose your preferred map from among the seven nominees for statewide honors. Check this site and DTL's social media channels for information on when the People's Choice Award voting will begin.