DTL barnstorming tour hits all corners of PA

Chris Satullo| November 13th, 2018

An incredible registration.
Amanda Holt's one-woman fight to slay the gerrymander became one of the inspirations for Draw the Lines PA.
At Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
At Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, PA.
Photo: At Indiana University, where Steelers clearly rule.
At Indiana University, where Steelers clearly rule.
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The Draw the Lines PA barnstorming tour of Pennsylvania rolls on.

Since launching in mid-September, the tour ranged across more than 55 events and reached more than 1,500 people.  

 It saw one canceled plane flight to Erie, 50 or so references to Donald Duck kicking Goofy, 60 mispronunciations of the word contiguity $400-plus in Pa. Turnpike tolls, 500 slices of pizza, more than 1,100 congressional maps of Pennsylvania begun – and at least one head wound with accompanying concussion (we'll get back to that in a moment).

It has reached from Lake Erie to Lake Wallenpaupack, from Temple to Pitt, from Middletown to Kutztown, from St. Andrew’s Village in Indiana, Pa., to Fire Co. No 1 in Emmaus.

Pennsylvanians who’ve attended DTL barnstorming events have learned why gerrymandering is the bug in the operating system of democracy, why an election is just like a job interview and how to play a valuable role in creating fairer elections in their state.   

And they’ve learned how to draw their own election maps on the project’s one-of-its-kind digital tool, District Builder.

And the tour is not done, not by a long sight.

We’re holding events in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh this week. More events are planned for the coming weeks in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Media, the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia, all leading up to the Dec. 14 entry deadline of our first statewide mapping competition.

Scroll through the photo galleries (above and below) to find images and memories from some of our favorite moments along the barnstorming way.


DTL’s patron saint preaches the gospel of fair maps

Pennsylvania’s pre-eminent citizen mapper, Amanda Holt of Lehigh County, joined with DTL staff in explaining the ins and outs of gerrymandering to an attentive crowd in Emmaus at one of the tour’s first events on Sept. 18.   Holt is on the project’s steering committee.

Wilkes students crush the puzzle 

After a few minutes of milling about, seeming a bit intimidated, students at an Eat Pizza, Save Democracy event at Wilkes University dove into the Put PA Back Together Challenge.  They raced against an iPhone stopwatch to assemble a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces replicated the  jagged, wandering shapes of the state’s former congressional map.  One tandem of Wilkes students broke the coveted 2-minute barrier.

Geek power I

Nobody got into the District Builder demo with more nerdy passion than the Students Using Data for Social Justice (SUDS) group at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, working with DTL’ers Justine Villere and Mariam Sayeed on Oct. 1.

Geek power II

Nobody, except perhaps for the small crowd that gathered to soak up Justin’s mapping wisdom the next day at Liberty Craft House in State College.  Sure, many in Nittany Nation were grumpy that night about the Lions’ heartbreaking loss to the hated Buckeyes of Ohio State the previous Saturday, but this group at least found learning about District Builder to be a soothing balm.

All maps considered

The big and lively crowd assembled by our good friends at WITF public media in Harrisburg for a News and Brews event featuring DTL certainly brought their creative genes to the festivities that night.

Girl power and Steeler mojo

The science-savvy teenage girls in AAUW-Indiana Chapter’s Project STEAM took to DTL’s art activities with gusto on a gloomy Saturday morning in October. If you can find the photo showing the “personal” maps of Pennsylvania they draw, you’ll have no doubt as to which sports team has first claim on their hearts.

Wise Owls

Students in professor Michael Hagen’s poli-sci class showed up early and in great numbers for a Monday morning presentation on Draw the Lines.   This was the biggest college contingent of many we’ve spoken to on the tour.  We’ve been the campuses of Carnegie Mellon, Wilkes, Drexel, Pitt, Kutztown, Allegheny Area Community College, Harrisburg Area Community College, Penn and Widener Law.

Wine and Meade

Just a short gallop from the battlefield, a boisterous crowd gathered at Knob Hall Wine Room in Gettysburg on Oct. 30 to lift a glass to democracy and to learn how to #slaythegerrymander.

Don’t be evil

More than 150 young entrepreneurs and their mentors gathered for the TecBridge innovation conference at Lackawanna College heard DTL Director Chris Satullo tell the story of the project as a startup project in social entrepreneurship.

Revolutionary ideas

Fresh from an Election Day professional development class at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, public school teachers repaired to the nearby Revolution House tavern to learn how to use the DTL curriculum and the DistrictBuilder mapping tool in their classrooms.

And that was all in just the first two months since DTL’s launch, with four more weeks to go until the first competition deadline.

Then we will do it all over again next spring, with a new competition seeking 17-district congressional maps of Pennsylvania – the number of seats we’ll likely have after the 2020 Census. 

Still wondering about that head wound?

It came about very early one Sunday morning in October when Satullo, the project director, tried to race out of his garage in Philly to get into a waiting rental car.  He and project chief of staff Justin Villere were hustling to begin a five-hour Turnpike trek. They were due at an afternoon event at Carnegie Library’s main branch in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.

Hurrying to get on the road, Satullo tried to hit the close button on his garage door and race outside before the door descended. On the way out, he hopped in the air to avoid tripping the laser that would tell the door to reverse direction and go back up. 

He was a little slow about it (or perhaps he just jumped higher than aging white men usually do).  Either way, the descending door slammed hard into his ascending noggin, knocking him on his back and leading to that scalp wound, much blood, a concussion and a cracked rib.

The blood dried somewhere around the Lebanon exit, and the pair still made it to the Pittsburgh library on time, so all’s well that ends well.

Sometimes, you just gotta suck it up if you want to slay the gerrymander.

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