About the competition

Draw the Lines-PA is a series of statewide public mapping competitions that will give thousands of participants access to the digital tools that the political pros use to draw the Commonwealth’s electoral boundaries. Draw the Lines is strictly nonpartisan — we welcome voters and students across the Commonwealth to participate!

When is the competition?

After a “soft launch” of awareness-building events in the fall of 2017, Draw the Lines will launch a pilot of the software it will use for the competition in the spring of 2018. Then in the fall of 2018, we will launch statewide with a Congressional mapping competition in conjunction with the midterm elections. New contests, including state Senate and House districts, will engage fresh citizen mapmakers each spring and fall until Pennsylvania has a new set of maps in 2021. Draw the Lines will come to the all corners of the Commonwealth, in cities, townships, and boroughs.

How does the competition work?

Draw the Lines will use District Builder, an easy-to-use, open-source software platform that allows mappers to create their own electoral maps. The map is accompanied by a real-time dashboard with metrics informing you about an area’s statistics to help you craft your district. Mappers will have to consider different requirements and values, including compactness, contiguity, equal population, jurisdictional splits, communities of interest, electoral competitiveness, majority minority districts, and others. The platform features a help-desk and multimedia tutorials to guide you through the process. There is no download necessary, and it will be entirely free for users.

A software-based mapping competition is not a new idea. District Builder powered similar competitions in eight states in 2011 through the American Enterprise Institute/Brookings Public Mapping Project, as well as a Philadelphia City Council contest (Fix Philly Districts). Ultimately, the 2011 competitions experienced modest success, but post-project evaluations found these competitions started too late and on too small of a scale to achieve their potential for impact. Most important, however, was their demonstration that citizens can do this as well as, if not better than, the politicians. Brookings senior fellow Thomas Mann and AEI resident scholar Normam Ornstein wrote that, “The best student plans show that… with the right tools, citizens anywhere can create better plans to choose their representatives than the representatives do to protect their own careers.”

Draw the Lines brings the idea to Pennsylvania, a bellwether state for the nation and an ideal place to lead this renewed effort before 2021. By starting well before the actual process and on a scale never before seen, DTL begins educating citizen mapmakers in time to impact the final maps. Further, DTL can be a model to groups seeking to conduct similar contests in other states. It could create a valuable democratic resource across the country.

District Builder is built and maintained by Azavea, a Philadelphia-based social benefit corporation that specializes in mapping software and analysis.

Where can I participate?

The competition is open to both individuals wishing to draw their own maps and student and community groups who will collaborate. DTL will organize events across the Commonwealth — in classrooms, church basements, libraries, community centers, retirement communities — to give citizens the chance to learn about the issue and draw maps together. Citizens can also participate by simply voting for other maps that they think best reflect how they would want to be represented.

The free and easy-to-use mapping platform will be backed by a pool of multimedia assets and technical support, a robust service-learning curriculum for schools, and community engagement toolkits to inform map-making.

Mapmakers will be encouraged to share their maps within their network, their local news media, and to their elected representatives. By 2021, our goal is to have 10,000 students and voters participate, demonstrating they will be engaged as the real process unfolds.

How are maps judged?

Maps will be evaluated in three divisions — middle/high school, higher education, and adult — by objective scores, a popular vote of other citizens, and a panel of bipartisan civic and community leaders from around the Commonwealth. Every competition will have regional winners in the three divisions, who will then convene in Harrisburg at the end of each competition cycle for a statewide event to crown that season’s best maps. Regional and state winners will receive cash prizes.

Anticipated Impact

For Schools