About Benjamin Winn: I am a 22-year-old senior at Kutztown University, studying communications and political science. I live in Palmerton, PA, and am pursuing admission to graduate programs for political science and policy-making. I  support anti-gerrymandering actions, as well as workers’ rights, environmentalism, and reducing the wealth gap. I hope to enter the political world as an elected official, consultant, or lobbyist.  I also enjoy participating in theatre, studying philosophy, and debating trivial theories about internet memes with my friends.

Judges' Statement

Ben’s entry distinguished itself for his thorough and well written essay, which touched on many important specifics, including outside sources and the relative strengths and weaknesses of many of the legislative districts he drew. Ben also incorporated many of the conversations he had about redistricting with his friends and roommate and what he learned from them. Ben’s map itself has excellent compactness and equal population scores, and he designed very interesting districts in the North Hills of Pittsburgh and the Lehigh Valley that do a great job of preserving communities of interest. Ben concluded his essay by saying that the exercise taught him about “gerrymandering, politics and what fair politics should look in in Pennsylvania,” one of the most important goals of the Draw the Lines initiative.

Personal Statement

In drawing my map, I chose to prioritize population equivalence for district boundaries. I believe that election fairness first stems from the principle of “one person, one vote.” In other words, the proportionate value of a citizen’s vote must be equal across all voters before party, ethnic, or age demographics etc. can be focused upon.'

A 2011 analysis of the electoral college argued that in the electoral college, one Vermonter’s vote equaled that of three Texans, and that of one Wyomingite was worth four Californians’ votes. I summarily concluded that population equivalence ought to be paramount in American electoral reform. Subsequently, I chose to redraw the Commonwealth with this in mind.

I first used the shortest split-line method of drawing, as this method focuses on population number. Though this does potentially lead to disproportionate party representation, it is demonstrably benign and non-partisan. However, upon seeing the impact a few highly populated municipalities can have on population counts, I shifted strategy towards creating original districts. Starting over, I began in the Southeastern region and worked Northwest. I found that starting with the most densely populated municipalities allowed me to hit the population recommendation faster, allowing me to move outward to less densely populated areas and make easier, broader strokes in drawing districts.
I encountered some challenges in drawing this map, primarily in deciding which municipalities ought to be traded to balance populations. This process, though long and tedious, was necessary in completing my map. Other challenges included:
•    Establishing compactness, namely in regions 11, 15, and 16;
•    Finding equal splits between the Democratic and Republican party; and
•    Dividing districts culturally (e.g., district seven representing the Lehigh Valley bordering the predominantly coal region district 10, or separating Pittsburgh’s North Hills from the more urbanized southern city.)

Nevertheless, one of the most rewarding parts of my mapping experience was the conversations my map was able to spur. I have on many nights sat with my college roommate as we both draw maps together after he was inspired to start his own after seeing mine. Likewise, my discussion of the activity spurred a discussion of the disadvantages of the single-member district plurality system and Duverger’s Law with a new coworker. Overall, my experience has helped teach me about gerrymandering, politics, and what fair politics should really look like in Pennsylvania."