Anne Bloomberg (University of Pittsburgh) - Honorable Mention, Western Higher Ed

About Anne: Currently, I am a 2nd year law student at the University of Pittsburgh. I have a PhD in sociology from the University of Virginia. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I witnessed struggling democracies and gained a greater appreciate for the power of the ballot. When I grow up, I want to make good trouble to use my academic background to help secure the rights of all.

Judges' Statement

Several of our judges noted that this map had an interesting appearance that was unique to other maps (including the full north-to-south district 12). A very strong, compelling personal statement boosted Anne's map to honorable mention recognition.

Personal Statement

I have political opinions but I do not have a political voice. I march and chant, yet I feel silenced. I dutifully vote but always with the feeling that the outcome is predetermined. The personal is political. Every day citizens are taking to the streets to demand our leaders address the political and social structures that impact our individual lives. However, the political is no longer personal because our politicians do not reflect our communities. The district lines have been drawn with election outcomes in mind, rather than representation.

A strong democracy depends on active engagement from citizens. Active engagement depends on meaningful representation in government. Over the summer, I talked to a diverse pool of people about how they felt the government should represent the people. People felt the representatives did not represent them. People talked about the importance of voting but also lamented the disproportionate power of a wealthy few and the disempowerment of poor communities and communities of color. Across the political spectrum, people expressed concern about polarization in politics.

With these concerns in mind, I began with broad outlines based on counties and geographical features, in order to draw on already existing communities. This did not create equally populated districts. So, as I began to fine-tune the map I prioritized racial diversity. If I needed to cross county lines in order to even out populations, I used the opportunity to address racial disparities. At no point did I consider political parties when drawing my lines.

It is very challenging to draw districts that both represent already existing communities and ones that prioritize racial diversity. America, and particularly my city of Pittsburgh, is highly segregated along racial lines. While there is a risk of diluting Black voting power by spreading it across more districts, I felt it was important to ensure that most districts could not ignore Black voters. While I did not draw lines with competitiveness in mind, I was happy to see that nine out of 17 districts are competitive. At the end of the day, representative democracy should represent the people and every person should have a vote, regardless of politics.