Billy Gardiner (Roman Catholic H.S., Philadelphia) - 2nd Place, East Youth

About Billy Gardiner: I am from Wyncote, PA, and am currently a sophomore at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia. I am a school ambassador, trombone player in the band, runner, and baseball player. I have run cross country and played baseball since kindergarten.

Judges' statement

Billy created a map with the fewest county splits among semifinalists in this division, all while maintaining a compactness score well above the median. We really liked how he balanced the objectives that mattered to him.  At first glance we think most Pennsylvanians would feel that his map presents a truly common-sense way to redistrict the commonwealth.

Endorsements: 1

Personal statement

Going into this assignment, I had a very vague idea of what gerrymandering was.  Nnow I know just how important it is for our society on both a statewide and nationwide level to prevent it. This assignment was very interesting, challenging, and fun to do - while maybe givng me a hope of making a difference in the future.

My first priority for this map was contiguity. Of course, any non-contiguous district would be clear gerrymandering and allow for certain demographics to be excluded from their proper districts.

My second priority was competitive elections. This was a bigger challenge than I had anticipated, as the large urban areas and surrounding areas of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were predominantly Democratic. These areas and some Republican areas of central Pennsylvania were where it was very hard to create competitive districts. However, I am proud to say that a still had a majority of the districts that are competitive, which would be enough to insure a good amount of competitiveness in an election as a whole.

Finally, population equivalence was of great importance. In an election, it would only be fair to have each district have very nearly the same number of voters to improve the democratic process. Similarly to competitiveness, this became difficult when taking into account the two primary urban centers of the state being on almost opposite sides of the state. However, once my 17 districts were first constructed, even without being complete, it was much easier to get my population equivalency below 3,000.

For this assignment, I was lucky enough to have a dedicated teacher and peers who have found success in this competition in the past. However, I found that my map turned out quite differently from theirs, which I hope is a good thing!