The Mapper's Tale: Rachel Matto of Manheim Township

Chris Satullo| November 29th, 2018

Rachel Matto, student mapper from Lancaster County

Rachel Matto's history teacher at Manheim Township High School in Lancaster County told her about Draw the Lines and the DistrictBuilder mapping tool. Then the 16-year-old international baccalaureate student took on the challenge with gusto, winning honorable mention in our first mapping competition. Here's what she has to say about the experience:

What goals did you have in mind for your map when you started drawing? Why were those your priorities?

My primary goal was equality because I’ve had to fight for my own equality among other issues and therefore always find it to be a personal goal that everyone receives equal representation. As such, it was extremely important to me that each district had a very close population number.

As you worked on your map, what kinds of tradeoffs or tough decisions did you find yourself having to weigh?

I found myself constantly having to weigh my options between staying within the population range or cutting up the districts a bit strangely. It was tough because I remember seeing some districts portrayed over the times and their shapes grew increasingly absurd, and I didn’t want mine to give that impression of having reshaped them for the purpose of allowing one party to be favored.

What's the part or quality of your map that you're happiest about?

I greatly appreciated that we had a range to keep the population of each district within because a big priority of mine was to make sure that each one had an equal amount of people and therefore and equal amount of votes.

What's the part of your map that you had the most trouble with or that frustrated you the most?

I really disliked having to cut certain areas or counties in half (or even more than half) because they held populations over the desired range, thus creating strange shapes for outlines and possibly dividing them at strange places (like tiny connecting streams or backroads).

What District Builder tools did you find most helpful in making your map?

Using the zoom and being able to make the map a transparent layer placed over the municipalities was very helpful for me and allowed for a lot of accuracy and precision.

What advice/pro tips would you give someone who is about to log on to try to make a map on DistrictBuilder?

I would advise them to create a practice map first. Get a feel for how many people are in certain counties and districts, as well as get accustomed to the mechanics of the tool.

Are you thinking of doing more maps? If yes, what different goals or approaches might you be taking with those?

I’m not sure if I’ll be doing more maps in the future, but I certainly think it’s a possibility because of how fun and simple they are.