How to host a DTL mapping party

Chris Satullo| November 7th, 2018

The Put PA Back Together Challenge engrosses a participant at our State of Young Philly event. | Image Credit: Linda Breitstein

What's the most powerful way to learn about an issue and be inspired to do something about it?

From a friend.

That’s why hosting a Draw the Lines PA mapping party is a great way to help slay the gerrymander.

It definitely will involve some work, as hosting any party will, but it could produce amazing impact – plus lots of fun.

We have a rich array of tools and materials you can download from this website to help you pull off your event.

But here are some things you’ll have to provide that just can’t be downloaded (yet … give Alexa a little time and who knows?):

1)    Some colored pencils or crayons (or both).

2)    Some regular pens and pencils.

3)    A screen on which to show your guests one or two videos from this website.

4)    A PC or laptop you can use to demo the DistrictBuilder mapping tool.

5)    Colored dots for voting (optional).

Here’s what you should ask your guests to bring:

1)    Their sense of fun.

2)    Their sense of citizenship.

3)    A laptop (if they can).

Here’s a suggested sequence of activities for your party, though,  of course, you can mix, match and improvise any way you want.

(And how you handle the food and drinks part of the festivities is entirely up to you, of course.  We hear you do a killer guacamole. But we did want to share with you our recipe for how to make a 'Slay the Gerrymander' cocktail.)

Here's a sample sequence for the evening ...

1)     Welcome and personal stake.

To get the event started, welcome your guests and let them know in your own words what gerrymandering is, why you care about it and what you hope they’ll get out of the evening.  (Our Gerrymandering 101 package provides plenty of background and talking points.  Also, here’s our basic slide deck presentation with speaker notes.)

You could also ask if any of your guests want to say something about why they decided to come, to deepen a sense of everyone’s stake in the issue.

2)     Show the “Amanda Holt: The Power of One” video.

This 4-1/2 minute video tells a great story that reminds people how one citizen can make a huge difference in the real world of politics.

3)     Play the Dot Matrix Game.

Download this single-sheeter, and invite your guests to tackle the yellow-dot, green-dot puzzles on the page.  It’s a great way for folks to grasp how gerrymandering really works and the power of holding the pen that draws the lines.  People can do the puzzles individually or together. Once they’re done, invite them to compare solutions and talk about what they learned as they worked through the puzzles.

4)    Do the Flashes of Insight exercise

Before you draw an election map, it’s a good idea to be clear on your goals.  These flashcards list and define eight common goals for an elections map. Each goal comes into tension in some way with the others; you can’t achieve all of them at once.  (We also included a Wild Card, where people can add a goal of their own devising.) Ask your guests to do a personal ranking of the goals, stacking the cards from top to bottom. Then have them share their lists with the group (or, if you have a really big group, with the person next to them).

5)    Demo DistrictBuilder

You can show our 8-minute demo video or, if you’re an experienced, confident hand, do it yourself, sharing your pro tips along the way.

6)    Get people mapping

Encourage people to sign up for and log onto DistrictBuilder on the spot and get their first map started.


More stuff your guests can do:

Here are some other fun activities that, if you like, you can work into the evening, before the DistrictBuilder demo.  Choose one or two, or offer them all in a set of activity stations.  If you like, you can have people post on a wall, board, or piece of easel paper the drawings they do for the activities. At the end, give each of your guests a set of colored dots to vote on their favorite drawings. Offer a little fun prize to the winners.

7)      “Draw Your Own Personal PA.”

Download this blank map of Pennsylvania and print out some copies.  You can also download or show on your screen some good examples of how other Pennsylvanians have had fun with with this challenge. This is where you provide the crayons or colored pencils and let your guests get creative.

8)     Political Pictionary

This is an additional art activity (or alternative one, if you prefer it) that will require a bit more preparation on your part.  Download these sheets with outlines of some of the crazy-shaped congressional districts from Pennsylvania’s notorious old election map, the one thrown out by the courts.  You’ll need to print multiple copies of the sheets, then cut them into individual districts with scissors. Invite your guests to draw whatever image, animal, mythical beasts or cartoon figure the shapes bring to mind, and put a funny caption on it.  Again, you can show some examples from the link above.

9)     Hometown Portrait

Download and print out the sheets for this activity. It is part of a larger quest to create a Wiki with information about all the communities of our state that citizen mappers can refer to find out about the parts of the state they know less about.  It has some questions that are just for fun as well, and it could be amusing to hear your guests compare their answers about your hometown.

10)  Pennsylvania Political Trivia (or, if you’re from Philly, call it Political Quizzo)

Download this set of trivia questions and pose your favorite ones to the group during the evening.

11)   Put PA Back Together Again Challenge

This is always a big hit at our Games for Democracy events (see photo at left) but, alas, it can’t be downloaded from the Internet.  We do have a store of these painted, wooden jigsaw puzzles where the pieces are made up of the jagged, crazy shapes of Pennsylvania’s old congressional districts.  You can challenge guests to do the puzzle while being timed (and while everyone else watches and comments). It’s great fun to see if you can beat our all-time record time of 93 seconds.

Of course, the rub is this: We’d have to get one of the puzzles to you.  We have dozens of them, stationed in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.  If you live near one of those places, we can make arrangements to get a puzzle to you.  If you don’t, still shoot us an email with your town and the date of your party and we’ll see if there’s something we can do to get you a puzzle.  Our staff is crisscrossing the state all the time and we have steering committee members from all over the Commonwealth.

Finally, while we do have a pretty good guacamole recipe, we’re sure yours is better. (Save a little for us, OK.)