Students at Harry S Truman High School in Bucks County tackle the Put PA Back Together challenge before trying their hands at their own maps during a Map-a-thon day.

The last fiddles are done. The punctuation on the personal statement has been checked (or not). The deadline for entering maps in Draw the Lines' fall 2019 (our third) is passed. So what happens now?

Justin Villere of Draw the Lines shows students at Manheim Township High School just outside Lancaster how to use the DistrictBuilder mapping platform | Image Credit: Nicole Eshelman

Here’s how we review, evaluate and decide which of the entries deserves a slice of the $28,000 in prize money for the spring competition – and how big a slice.

Before the end of the year, the Draw the Lines team will begin the winnowing by looking at every single map and personal statement submitted.  We’ll set aside maps that do not do a good job on the metrics related to the goals the mapper stated for the entry.  We’ll also relegate entries where the personal statement is missing or perfunctory.  By doing that, we’ll cull the entry pool in each judging category (defined by age of the mapper and home region) to a manageable number.

All other maps will move onto the second phase, after the New Year, when judging panels made up of members of our three steering committees will take a long, hard look at each entry in a given category.   These panels will decide who gets first and second place in each category, based on a judging rubric

These panels will decide who gets named regional first and second place winners in each category, based on a judging rubric that factors in the map metrics, the “eye test” of the map, the quality of the essay, and the extent of civic engagement that went into the entry (including endorsements). 

The panels will also award honorable mentions in each category to mappers who were in the running for the big prizes thanks to doing something memorable or distinctive with their entry.

This round of judging will be complete by mid-January.

The final judging will be done by the co-chairs of our three steering committees, a distinguished group including a former governor, former Superior Court judge and former U.S. Attorney.   This will get done by the end of January.

Winners will be informed by Feb. 1.

The scene in the PA. State Capitol rotunda during Draw the Lines PA's awards event for citizen mappers in September. | Image Credit: Photo by Rutan Productions

This year’s award ceremony in the Main Rotunda of the State Capitol will be held on Wed., March 18, 2020.   All Draw the Lines mappers, not just the new round of honorees, are urged to attend, along with family and friends.  The event will include a live mapping demonstration by some of our champion mappers, who will then present their work to a mock “citizens redistricting commission.”

 This event will occur as the state General Assembly faces, for all pragmatic purposes, its last chance to enact meaningful redistricting before the 2021 redistricting gets under way.

So we hope to fill the Capitol with friends of Draw the Lines to drive home emphatically the project’s message: The people of Pennsylvania are done with gerrymandering and are ready, willing and able to take on the job of map-making themselves.

It is past time for Pennsylvania lawmakers to do something to move our Commonwealth out of the Dark Ages of Gerrymandering.

Please save this vital date: March 18.  See you in Harrisburg.

Students at Cedar Cliff High School just west of Harrisburg dig into an activity during a mapathon in December 2019. | Image Credit: Chris Satullo