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The Great American Map Off Is Underway

Created: 20 May, 2021
Updated: 14 August, 2022
2 min read

Want to better understand how gerrymandering works while also competing for prizes? There is a competition going on until June 15 that calls on the American public to put their mapmaking skills to the test.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project launched the Great American Map Off on May 15. The group challenges any member of the public to draw congressional districts for 7 crucial states -- Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin -- as the redistricting process begins across the country in the wake of the 2020 census.

The goal of the project is to raise awareness on the issue of gerrymandering, and to bring voters closer to the redistricting process by illustrating how accessible online map making tools have become.

“Everyone should participate in our Great American Map-Off, both to learn about how maps are used to gerrymander districts and to better understand the process for fair representation around the redistricting process,” said Hannah Wheelen of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.

Free map making tools are available to use for the competition through Dave's Redistricting. Maps submitted will be judged in 4 categories: partisan fairness, stealth gerrymander, competitiveness, and communities of interest -- meaning participants can explore the full breadth of what goes into electoral redistricting.

For example, participants could draw two maps for Florida’s 28 congressional districts, one that favors incumbents and one that favors competition (competitiveness). Or, participants could draw an Ohio or Illinois congressional map with contiguous and compact districts that hide a gerrymander that is designed to disproportionately favor one political party (stealth gerrymander).

Participants are not restricted to just one category, either. Maps can be submitted for any and all categories, and each map must include a short essay (200-400 words) on what the mapmaker was trying to accomplish and why the map should win.

The Great American Map Off runs through June 15, and winners will be declared in mid-July. One grand prize winner will receive an iPad. However, other prizes include Princeton Gerrymandering Project (PGP) gear, such as t-shirts and masks. Additional winners could also be selected to consult and draw maps for the PGP team as members of the group’s Mapping Corps.

A new threat index released by the nonpartisan anti-corruption group, RepresentUs, shows that 70% of the country is under severe threat of partisan gerrymandering. This competition by the PGP is an opportunity for voters to experience how state lawmakers from both parties use the authority to redraw electoral maps to protect incumbents and enhance the political power of the majority party, even at the expense of voter preferences.