Tell us about a person who inspired you in the ideals of public service.

My grandmother Ruth Graf, who died this year at the age of 99, was a major inspiration. I remember visiting and hearing her call her Senator and Congressman on the phone. "Tell him it's Ruth," she'd say and suddenly she would be talking to Russ Feingold about social justice.

What interested you in Draw the Lines originally?

I first heard of DTL from a colleague and was intrigued as I have always had a keen interest in mapping and Arc-GIS. I’ve only lived in Pennsylvania for three years--but I moved here from Wisconsin, another notoriously gerrymandered state, so the issue felt familiar and urgent with the next round of redistricting just around the corner.  When my school announced that teachers would have the opportunity to craft mini-courses for an Interdisciplinary Institute in March 2020, I knew that I wanted to focus on gerrymandering and the intersection of math, geography and politics. As I started to compile resources, I found myself returning again and again to the the DTL website and with my co-teachers decided to plan the course to complement the congressional mapping contest.

What goals did you have in mind for your maps when you started drawing? Why were those your priorities?

Before I started drawing, I was leaning toward competitiveness as my driving principle. I think one of the most destructive aspects of gerrymandering is how it saps the spirit of democracy by insulating politicians from the will of the people. As a basic concept, it made sense to me that competition promotes more robust and responsive government. I also valued compactness as a sort of a visual litmus test for gerrymandering--the most notorious gerrymandered districts all have insane looking boundaries, so I figured a boring shape was probably desirable. Finally, I knew from reading about Amanda Holt’s crusade that county splits should be minimized. 

See Athan's previous mapping entry:

Fall 2019 (Statewide Adult tied-2nd place)

And view our 2020 competition winners for Athan's students from The Baldwin School.