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Winners of state redistricting map contest announced

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A young whiz from Happy Valley, a talented trio from Wilkes University and a “poli-sci guy” from Erie are among the repeat honorees in the second public mapping competition of Draw the Lines PA.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan initiative announced its roster of regional winners this week, some of whom will go on to compete for statewide honors worth up to $5,000. Altogether, the 341 individual and team entries in the spring round are competing for $34,000 in prizes.

Kyle Hynes, a rising junior at State College High School, again took first place in the Central/Youth division – after he used that same honor last year as a springboard to being named the top youth mapper in the state. (Meet Kyle on the latest episode of the DTL podcast.)

The Wilkes team of Gregory Chang, William Billingsley and Geraldine Ojukwu took top honors in the Higher Ed/East category, after winning second place statewide, worth $2,500, for their efforts last fall.

Nathaniel Ropski, a political science instructor at Gannon University in Erie, was inspired by his honorable mention last fall to enter a blizzard of quality maps this spring, which earned him a second place and two honorable mentions in the West/Adult category.

These repeat honorees got plenty of competition from a wave of newcomers representing high schools such as Abington Heights near Scranton, Fox Chase near Pittsburgh, Indiana Area and St. Joseph’s Prep in Philly.

Abington Heights alone produced 64 maps, crafted by more than 100 students. In all, maps came from 29 counties, 21 different high schools and 10 different colleges. Among the honorees is Carol Kuniholm, the leader of Fair Districts PA, the state’s largest grassroots group advocating redistricting reform.

Mappers showed great creativity, too, drawing district lines based on factors such as watersheds, area codes and millennial population clusters.

The maps were drawn on District Builder, a free, digital mapping tool developed for Draw the Lines by Azavea Inc. of Philadelphia.

These citizen-drawn maps arrive at a moment of ferment around redistricting reform in Pennsylvania. Several proposals calling for citizens panels to draw election maps are being discussed in the General Assembly. Wrapping up its work and expected to deliver recommendations by Labor Day is Gov. Tom Wolf’s Special Commission on Redistricting Reform, chaired by David Thornburgh, CEO of the Committee of Seventy, which is DTL’s parent organization.

Maps were evaluated by members of the project’s three regional steering committees, including former Superior Court Judge Maureen Lally-Green, former state Sen. Michael Brubaker and former U.S. Attorney Frederick Thieman.

Entries that earned regional firsts or seconds move onto judging for statewide prizes ($5,000 for first in an age group; $2,500 for second). Those winners will be announced at an award event in the State Capitol on Sept. 24.


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