This was a heck of a job by Anna, to take on the 50-seat State Senate instead of just the congressional map. She did a nice job in her essay focusing on certain communities of interest. She got some great engagement out of her classmates. For somebody who is new to this project, she did a fantastic job, especially for her first time through!
Before this project, I had limited knowledge of what the act of gerrymandering even was. Even now, it is hard for me to believe that I am in my current position, writing this personal statement and having created my very own senate district map attempting to remedy the vices of gerrymandering. Preparing for this contest has allowed me to understand the urgency of this political practice undermining the country’s democracy and our, the people’s, voice.
I discussed with my classmates and teachers the major metrics followed when drawing district lines. As we examined the significance of each, I noticed that compactness, population equivalence, and minority representation emerged as the ones considered most conducive toward giving people a voice. In agreement with my class’s deduction, I settled on the three metrics with compactness as my foremost goal.
By having a multitude interests in mind, I resolved that I would aim to perform decently across multiple metrics even if it meant that I would not excel as much in any one. Certain values manifested themselves to be a bit mutually exclusive with each other at times, but I gradually learned to weigh my interests, keeping my main goals at the forefront while trying to respect the other key metrics as much as I could.
With a final score of 43%, compactness is the metric I valued most. As a newbie, the visual test was the first and main method I learned to detect gerrymandering. Thus, it was crucial for me to create map that was visually appealing and featured districts following a natural flow. Population equivalence was my secondary interest to ensure that voices across the state were being valued as equally as possible. My greatest population deviation came out to be 0.12% at +299 people. At the same time, I did my best to keep minority groups intact, creating 4 minority-majorities in Philadelphia, while creating two 30% minority populations in Pittsburgh.
As many of these metrics come at the expense of others, I must acknowledge that I fell short in a few, namely following county and municipal lines, with my total of 36 splits being 10 above that of the official map, and competitiveness, sacrifices I ultimately deemed necessary to maximize my compactness and equivalence. If I have the chance in the future, I would love to create another senate district map aiming to perform better in these metrics.