To take on an entrenched foe, you might need a battalion. Or maybe even an entire corps.

In fact, to dislodge an enemy as dug in as the habitual cheating known as gerrymandering, it will definitely take a very plucky, multi-talented Corps.

So, let us introduce Draw the Lines PA’s newest initiative: The Citizen Map Corps.

The Citizen Map Corps consists of people from all over our Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, young, old and in between. Over the last three years, while taking part in Draw the Lines’ events and mapping contests, these folks have proven three things:

1) They are passionate about citizenship and protecting democracy.
2) They have a knack for talking about elections and redistricting in ways that are informed, clear, eloquent and creative.
3) They can map circles around the usual suspects in Harrisburg.

Draw the Lines believes much still can be done – from now until the redistricting process wraps up in early 2022 - to ensure better election maps for Pennsylvania. The members of the Citizen Map Corps will be the key voices, faces and willing hands of DTL’s work towards the goal of better maps for Pennsylvania.

We’ve chosen, from among some of our most honored citizen mappers, a first, elite cohort of what we expect will be many participants in the Corps.

They are people such as:

  • Sara Stroman , a statistical programmer from Philadelphia and a multiple DTL honoree who says she got involved in the first against gerrymandering because, she says, “I’m endlessly tired of politicians not listening to us.”
  • Kyle Hynes , a two-time state youth champion, now a senior at State College High School, who explains how gerrymandering harms democracy with the thoughtfulness and eloquence of someone 30 years older.
  • Rachel Karp and Joseph Amodei of Pittsburgh, theater artists who’ve turned their rage at gerrymandering into a delightful, interactive event that recently was part of the Philly Fringe Festival.
  • Nathaniel Ropski , an admissions counselor and political science instructor at Gannon University in Erie, multiple winner and self-described “nerd,” who sits atop the all-time DTL leadership map for total maps entered across our four competitions.
  • William Billingsley, an Army veteran and student at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, who’s won honors both as a solo act and as part of a team with fellow students Greg Chang and Geraldine Ojukwu.

What will these and other members of the Citizen Maps Corps do? They will talk - online for now, someday (virus willing) in person – with any class, club, civic or advocacy group that wants to learn about how redistricting works, why it matters so much to the kind of government and society we have, how to make their voice heard during Pennsylvania’s redistricting process next year.

Corps members will share their maps and the anti-gerrymandering lessons they’ve learned on social media and via media interviews. They’ll serve as vital players in the Citizens Redistricting Commission hearings we intend to hold next year to inform and watchdog the Harrisburg process. And, importantly, they’ll help teach their fellow Pennsylvanians how to tell a good map from a bad one, so together we can help prevent our state from being saddled with the kind of terrible, damaging election boundaries that were foisted upon us in 2011.

Oh yes, they’ll also keep making and sharing their own fine maps - first to help educate people how map-making works and the keys to evaluating a map, then to offer quality maps as public testimony into the separate processes for making Pennsylvania’s next congressional map and its two new state legislative maps.

Their activities will help convey Draw the Lines’ pointed message to the politicians who still have final say on the new maps to be drawn next year: You can give us three good maps now, or you can face a thousand plaintiffs like us later.

We invite meet some Citizen Map Corps members, as well as the champions of our most recent mapping contest, during a Draw the Lines PA Facebook Live event on Oct. 13. Stay tuned for more details on that event and other future activities of the Citizen Map Corps.