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Fair Districts Congressional Mapping Competition Rules 2021.docx
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Ohio Redistricting Competition

Congressional Maps

Rules and Scoring


In this Document:

General Information

Competition Rules

Mapping Criteria



Additional Resources

General Information

Who:  Anyone who cares about democracy and is interested in Ohio redistricting


What: Try your hand at drawing Ohio Congressional District maps! Using the mapping software of your choice (free options and tutorials here), create a Congressional district plan that follows the criteria in the Ohio Constitution: avoids cracking or packing, and creates representative districts for the people of Ohio.


Official Launch: Friday, August 27, 2021

Deadline:        Before 5:00 PM on September 15, 2021.  

Maps must be submitted through this form.

How:  All information and software necessary to prepare redistricting maps are   available online at  

*** Enter the competition! Sign up HERE. ***

Competition Rules

  1. Maps may be the work of an individual or team, but each person who works on the map must be identified.
  2. Mappers may submit a Congressional map and/or a legislative district map (state legislative mapping competition rules here)
  3. Only maps of the entire state will be accepted.
  4. Maps must use 2020 Census data as a basis for determining equal population. No resident may be excluded from population counts on the basis of the ability to vote.
  5. Maps must comply with the criteria in the Ohio constitution (see below for more information)
  6. Maps may be submitted using any of the following free online mapping software programs:  DistrictR, DistrictBuilder, or Dave’s Redistricting App. Maps created in other software programs or submitted in hand drawn or pdf format must also include shapefiles to be considered.
  7. Mappers are strongly encouraged to refer to submitted community maps in crafting their submissions.
  8. Mappers are required to submit a narrative along with their map that explains the tradeoffs and decisions that they made in creating their map.
  9. Mappers may submit more than one map. However, only the highest scoring map submitted by an individual or team will be allowed to place.

Mapping Criteria

All maps must comply with the following constitutional criteria.  However, mapmaking includes necessary trade offs and value judgements between criteria.  Mappers should include a narrative report with their map that explains their thought process and the tradeoffs that they made.

  1. Map must include 15 Congressional Districts

  1. Districts must have substantially Equal Population as determined by the 2020 Census.

Given the Ohio total population of 11,799,448, each district should include approximately 786,630 people. However, the population can vary: district ranges between 780,416 to 792,844 people would be within the legal parameter of less than 1 percent (0.79% maximum) deviation.


  1. Districts must comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act and they must be drawn in a manner to ensure that voters of color can elect representatives of their choosing.

Compliance with the Voting Rights Act would not only mean avoiding any decrease in BIPOC  (Black, Indigeneous, people of color including those of Asian and Latina/o background) representation in Congress but would also mean the creation of additional opportunity districts where BIPOC voters could elect representatives of their choosing. The latter could be done by unpacking Ohio’s major metropolitan areas (particularly Cleveland and Columbus) and uncracking Cincinnati.  

It is important to note that there is no current legal requirement for Ohio to draw a majority-minority congressional district in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

  1. Districts must be contiguous 

Each part of a district must be connected to the rest of the district. All districts within a plan must be contiguous, meaning that every part of a district must be reachable from every other part without crossing the district’s borders. “Point contiguity” where two sections of a district are connected at a single point is not permitted. Water contiguity is permitted for districts containing Lake Erie islands.

  1. Districts must be compact. 

Compactness is a measure of how closely the outline of a district is contained within a circle.  Generally, districts are more compact if they avoid strange shapes or straggling lines.  Compactness will be measured by the Polsby-Popper mathematical measure of compactness.

  1. Map must comply with Ohio county splits requirements
  1. Statewide, 65 counties must be kept whole, 18 counties may be split once, and 5 counties may be split twice

NOTE: While the criteria allow for 23 total county splits, mapmakers are encouraged to explore the creation of maps with fewer county splits. Maps that are fully compliant with all constitutional requirements can be made with only a handful of county splits.  

  1. Where possible, at least one whole county should be included in each congressional district.  This does not apply for counties where doing so is impossible (like Franklin County, which is too big to fit into a single district) or where doing so would violate federal law (like the Voting Rights Act).

  1. Map must comply with Ohio municipal splits requirements
  1. The cities of Cleveland and Cincinnati MAY NOT be split apart.
  2. Columbus is sufficiently large that it must have its own district. It will also have additional population left over. Mappers should attempt to keep a significant portion of Columbus within the single district, and combine the excess population with one adjacent district. The excess portion should be joined with an area with similar communities of interest.
  3. Akron, Dayton and Toledo may be split, but mappers should consider keeping them whole.

  1. Other district requirements
  1. If a district includes only part of the territory of a county, the part of that congressional district that lies in that county must be contiguous within the county. In other words, a district cannot contain territory from  a county that is not connected within that county.
  2. No two districts can share portions of more than one county except for a county whose population exceeds 400,000.

  1. Maps should not unduly favor or disfavor a political party or its incumbents.

District plans should take this important anti-gerrymandering criteria into account, particularly since it lies at the heart of all of the redistricting reform efforts in Ohio over the past decade. To ensure that one political party is not unduly favored over another, the partisan make-up of Ohio's districts should mirror the partisan make-up of Ohio's voters.


This competition will test the use of the below factors as demonstrated in the submitted Congressional map. Please see above for a detailed description of each scoring criteria.

  1. Equal Population
  2. Voting Rights Act Compliance
  3. Preservation of  County and Municipal Boundaries
  4. Contiguity and Compactness 
  5. Representational Fairness
  6. Map Responsiveness
  7. Protection of communities of interest 
  8. Narrative Quality

Scoring Criteria


Equal Population

  • Is the population of each district within the .79% population deviation range permitted by the Supreme Court?

Voting Rights Act

  • Does the map comply with the Voting Rights Act?
  • Does the map provide BIPOC voters with opportunity districts?

Limiting County and Municipal splits

  • Does the map follow constitutional requirements about splitting counties and municipal boundaries?
  • Does the map minimize county and municipality splits?
  • To the extent counties and municipalities are split, do the splits preserve communities of interest where possible?


  • Are all districts contiguous and made of a single, non-intersecting boundary?


  • How compact are the districts?
  • Do the districts avoid oddly shaped or sprawling lines?

Representational Fairness/Partisan gerrymandering prohibition

  • How closely does the map as a whole mirror the partisan political makeup of Ohio’s voters?
  • How does the map appropriately account for political geography while providing for some reasonably competitive districts?
  • Does the map unduly favor or disfavor a party or incumbent?


  • How likely are the individual districts to change partisan control, given shifting political preferences over the coming decade?

Protection of Communities

  • How has the mapper prioritized protecting communities of interest?
  • Did the mapper review community mapping and incorporate into the map(s)?


  • Did the mapper include a narrative?
  • Does the narrative explain the mapper’s reasoning, including how the mapper has complied with the other criteria and prioritized communities of interest?


First Prize $750        Second Prize $500                Third Prize $250

In addition, all who submit complete and compliant maps will be entered into a drawing for cash gift cards.

Additional Resources