Alex Duffy (Abington Heights HS, Lackawanna County) - Honorable Mention, Eastern Youth

About Alex: I am a Junior at Abington Heights High School. I am a longtime member of cross country and track and I also participate in various clubs at my school such as the Geography club and Fishing Club. I plan to become an engineer in the future after high school.

Judges' Statement

Alex had strong compactness and competitiveness scores. He used lots of effort in drawing his map. He even attended a regional Draw the Lines meeting, demonstrating the desire to go above-and-beyond. Great work, Alex!

Personal Statement

Gerrymandering is an issue that has negatively affected Pennsylvania for quite some time making it a relevant topic in our state. Therefore I believe it is important that people are educated about the dangers it poses to our democracy. I attended a meetup with Draw the Lines at the border of two districts in my hometown. These districts were undoubtedly divided by gerrymandering. At this event I learned further about the dangers of gerrymandering and why it should be addressed. After this I went home and told my family about what it is. When the mapping competition rolled around I was then inspired to make a map that fairly gave both parties a shot at dominance, with plenty of competitive districts and a near even divide of political power. My mapping process consisted of many failed attempts. I wanted to make a map that was competitive with a compact look that did not separate certain homogenous areas. In order to best encapsulate these two metrics I used a number of attempts at districting in order to fine tune my vision for my map.

My mapping process began with inspiration from previous winners. I used the concepts that I approved of the most and ignored the ones I didn’t. This helped me develop a general pattern for districts in certain areas such as outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. I also wanted to incorporate two minority-majority districts in order to coincide with the likely number that the next Pennsylvania map will include. My early attempts generalized these two ideas along with a combination of compactness and competitiveness in order to draw the districts. I also tried to stay fairly similar to county lines. However when I asked my peers of their thoughts on my maps, they always told me that it was either too focused on competition and not enough on compactness or vice versa. It was not until my final map that I was able to find a perfect synergy between the two. I utilized the block modification tool to draw districts that had mostly smooth boundaries, and that joined areas with different political voting tendencies. Once my map was completed I asked my peers and some of my teachers if they would endorse my map. I talked to each of them about the goals of my districting process and how I combated gerrymandering with my layout.