In political campaigns, it's common to seek and collect endorsements to show broad support for your candidacy.

Now, as you enter this spring's Draw the Lines PA public mapping competition, we invite you to collect endorsements of your map.

An endorsement signals that a person other than you (or your teammates, if it's a team entry) has reviewed your map and supports the way you've divided Pennsylvania into 17 congressional districts.

Endorsements are a way to boost the power of your entry in our judges' eyes, while also involving more people in learning about election maps.

Under the the rubric DTL uses to evaluate maps, the outreach and dialogue you do as part of your map-making count for 20 percent of your entry's overall grade.  Endorsements now become one way (not the only way, but a really good one) to boost your score in that category.

To gather an endorsement, you should show a person your map and take some time to explain your thinking and answer questions. The easiest way to do this is grab a screenshot of your map on DistrictBuilder. Here are some tips on how to do that, on a PC and a Mac.  Or, if it's practical, you can call your map up on your desktop or laptop and show the actual file.

Ask permission to list the person as an endorser.  For all your endorsers, provide a name and some way for us to contact them (e.g. emails, social handles etc.). We reserve the right to use that contact info to verify that a person actually saw and endorsed your map.

An endorser is different from a teammate.  A teammate is someone who has input into a map as it's being built, even if they don't move the mouse themselves.  An endorser is someone who reviews a map after it is completed.

A person can endorse more than one map by more than one mapper.  A person who has (or plans to) enter a map in the competition can still endorse a map by another entrant (an act of true selflessness!). 

If you enter one map as part of a team and another as an individual, you can ask your teammates to endorse your individual map.   (BTW: It's perfectly OK to ask family members to endorse your map. We expect that.  But we may be a little more impressed by endorsements from non-relatives.)

An endorser has no claim to any prize you might win for your map. 

But if you should be able to set up a meeting with a lawmaker to share and discuss your map, we encourage you to invite your endorsers to be part of that session.

We've added the endorser concept to the competition for two reasons:

1) We have always encouraged mappers to show their maps to other people and talk about them. This creates a clearer system for tracking and rewarding that activity.

2) We've found that some people who really care about gerrymandering do not, for a variety of reasons, want to draw a map themselves.  Being an endorser gives them a chance to see what a finished map looks like, to weigh its value, and to take part in conversations with lawmakers.

To stress the point, for an endorsement to count, you have to provide us with some way to contact your endorser.  (In accordance with our strict privacy policy, we will not add any email addresses from your endorsers to our mailing list without first seeking their express permission.)

The deadline for entries is May 31.  But it's never too early to finish a map and start rounding up endorsers.