About Blyden Potts: A sociologist, social network analyst, and former college instructor, I live near Shippensburg, PA. Among other activities, I enjoy puzzles and have a strong interest in politics, particularly efforts to ensure civil liberties, increase social justice, decentralize political and economic power, and make a more participatory and representative democracy. These interests align in my participation in Draw The Line's redistricting contests and advocating to end gerrymandering. I was Runner-Up in the Adult Division of DTL's Fall 2018  contest. 

Judges' statement

Blyden Potts is in a category of his own, as far as Draw The Lines is concerned.  Altogether, eight of his maps have been considered for honors in the fall and spring competitions. When read together, they show the depth and breadth of Blyden’s knowledge about and passion for redistricting. He plays with concepts through mapping so elegantly. His essays really ought to be read together for best effect – they are a master class in the political science and dark arts of redistricting.

This winning map was visually very clean. Blyden calls it “Regionality Plus,” and says his main goal with it was to produce districts reflecting “intuitive, natural regions of Pennsylvania. He took into account factors including topography, watersheds, the distribution of population density and natural breaks within it, county and municipal integrity, transportation patterns (e.g. roads, SEPTA, etc.), and existing concepts of “regional,” (e.g. Dutch Country, Laurel Highlands, Poconos, Pennsylvania Wilds, etc.). He also wanted a map that was highly compact and had very equal populations, both of which he also accomplished.  It took a really amazing effort from Jesse Stowell to top Blyden here.

Blyden also got five endorsements to this map.

Regionality Plus

Endorsements: 5

Personal statement

I spent many hours trying to create a 17-district Pennsylvania map that did a good job of representing Pennsylvania's regions, while still having reasonable compactness, high equivalence of population, relatively “clean” bounds, and a reasonable number of competitive districts. I tried creating one by starting first with watersheds and aggregating them into regions. I could never get that to work and eventually abandoned it, except that the concept remained in my mind and came into play occasionally in other maps.  I also tried starting from a map with fewest broken counties and adjusting it toward representing regions.

The map that resulted was pretty good on quantitative scores, and had 11 competitive districts, which was sweet, but I could not get the regions to work out quite intuitively while still having so many competitive districts. There were other designs that also did not work.

I arrived at a map I called Regionality that I thought best represented the regions of PA while still having pretty good numbers. It had a compactness score of 40.4 percent, which is pretty strong, and a decent population equivalence, 3863, with all but three of the proposed districts being within 0.10 percent of the target population.

Somewhat less desirable was the fact that only seven of the districts were competitive. The other 10 favor one party or the other, with six districts favoring Democrats and four favoring Republicans.  Also, it has only one majority-minority district.

A couple of weeks went by and I was thinking about Districts 4 and 8 and decided that they were not the best possible representation of regionality. So I edited the map to create this new one, Regionality Plus, changing just those two districts, which had been had been east-west shapes, into blockier districts, with 4 being the core part of Philadelphia and 8 being western suburbs.

Not only does this do a better job of reflecting regions, but the metrics are somewhat improved. There are now two minority-majority districts and eight competitive districts. The compactness climbed a bit to 41.6 percent, and coincidentally it has exactly the same population equivalence (3863) as the un-tweaked version had.

The main goal with this map, as with the earlier version, is to produce districts that reflect intuitive, natural regions of PA. Factors taken into consideration as part of regionality, include topography, watersheds, the distribution of population density and natural breaks within it, county and municipal integrity, transportation patterns (e.g. roads, SEPTA, etc), and existing concepts of regional - especially ideas about tourism regions (e.g. Dutch Country, Laurel Highlands, Poconos, PA Wilds), etc.

In addition to that main goal I tried to get a map that was also highly compact and had very equal populations, which this map has, and to a lesser extent also a good number of competitive districts, which this map is somewhat weak on.

This map is not as good on the quantitative metrics as some others I have drawn, but it has pretty good scores, and I very much like the regional aspect of the mapping.