How do the various buttons work for DistrictBuilder? This section will show you.

Exploring the features and tools

On the blank map when you start drawing, you’ll first see PA’s 67 counties. They are outlined in green. As you zoom, you’ll soon see census tracts. The green county outline will endure no matter the zoom level. Counties and census tracts are the two mapping units that you will use to create your districts.

These are shaded by total population. Darker = more people.

Our recommendation: From the blank map template, work at the county level to draw a basic map, and then zoom to the census tract level to refine it to meet your goals.     

Next, take a look at the box with “Transparency” and “Basemap” labels.

The Transparency tool is a slider. Take the blue circle and move it along the slider. When the slider is all the way to the left, you are seeing the map of counties and, when zoomed in, census tracts that you are using to draw your map.

When the slider is all the way to the right, you’re seeing one of three possible choices. They’re listed in the row beneath the slider. You choose which one you want to view by clicking the name. The Topo map shows Pennsylvania’s natural features like mountains, valleys, and rivers. The Road map shows Pennsylvania’s roadways. And the Municipality map shows PA’s municipal boundaries. *Note: the municipality map only populates when you’re zoomed in several levels.

Play around with the slider and each of the three choices between Topo/Road/Municipalities. This will be helpful when you are trying to put certain municipalities together or figuring out which roads or geography creates natural boundaries.

Step 2 - Learn the tool bar


#1 - Pan: Select this button to pan across the map.

#2 - Info: Click here, and then click on a county or tract (based on zoom level) to get key stats.

#3 - Polygon Select: To select multiple jurisdictions, click this button. Hold and trace to touch each unit that you want to include. This is the tool to use to start sketching out your districts at the county level. Note: This button is NOT used for selecting the shape of your district. Only for touching all jurisdictions that you want to include in your selection. Try it out and get a feel for it.

  • Quick Note: If you make a selection that you don’t like but still haven’t assigned it to a district, just click somewhere outside of Pennsylvania and that selection will disappear.

#4 - Single Select: Use this button to select a single jurisdiction. This is helpful to move a single unit from one district to another, particularly to fine-tune your map.

  • Quick note: If you are having problems with ‘Polygon Select’, an alternative is to select the ‘Single Select’ and then press+hold the Shift button to select multiple jurisdictions, one at a time.

To assign jurisdictions to a district, you have two options:

  • Select your jurisdictions. Go to #5 - Assign to District in the toolbar. Select either a New District or an already existing one. This is best for creating a new district.
  • Make your selection, and click #6 - Click and Drag. Then click and drag your selection into a previously created district. This is best for moving selections to already created districts. Note: To use Click and Drag, you need to first select the “Click and Drag” button, then select how you want to select districts (Single or Polygon). Then single click on the unit you want to move. Then grab and drag that district. A little counter-intuitive, we get it. But you’ll get used to it.

Make a bad move? Click the #7 - Undo button on the top right side.

Our recommendation: Use ‘Polygon Select’ and ‘Assign to District’ to build the general look of your map. It’s best to do this on the county level. Then fine-tune with Single Select and Click and Drag. It’s best to do fine-tuning on the census tract level.

Lastly, you don’t have to save your map; it saves automatically. Neat, right?

Step 3 - Pro Tip for checking how you’re doing

The Statistics box on the right side contains both state and district-level details that will update with every move you make. You can select which table of district-level stats you see.

The default table is called “Basic Information,” which includes a district’s total population, it’s compactness score, and if it is contiguous. It can also view competitiveness and demographics tables.

Additionally, mappers can save their own sets (up to three). Click “Edit Display Stats” (upper right corner) to select three metrics that you can monitor as you update each district.

Our recommendation: Use the priorities that you identified in the Flashes of Insight exercise to build out your stats panel.

To see your splits, go into “District Tools,” the second tab on the task bar above the map. Select “Generate Splits Report.” This presents your total county splits at the top of the report and gives you a district-by-district read-out of which counties are split by each district.