This is a very strong map, backed up by an articulate essay by a woman who has spent countless hours crisscrossing the state, both educating Pennsylvanians about the redistricting issue and being educated by what they tell her. All of that would make her worthy of being honored even if her map wasn’t that good. But it is good. She met her goals with overall strong metrics. Jurisdictional splits are pretty darn low, as she set out to do. And the compactness score is good.
In the past two years, I've spoken to groups about maps and redistricting reform in 25 PA counties, and have talked with volunteers and local supporters from at least 40 counties. Along the way I've seen the mountains and rivers that divide, and seen the valleys, highways and shared history that unite. I've heard complaints from regions that have been fractured by past redistricting and seen first hand why places like State College should be counted as one unit, even though composed of multiple municipalities.
This entry is an attempt to put what I've learned into map form: a map that keeps distance from edge to center of districts as short as possible, that respects regions like the Lehigh Valley, and that doesn't divide any county more than mathematically necessary plus one.
Top priorities: maintaining majority-minority districts was an essential requirement. So were creating compact districts and minimizing splits. I did not set out to create competitive districts, but have discovered that for much of Pennsylvania, competitive districts are a natural byproduct of a fairly drawn map.
I'm aware that, for the sake of ease of use, the District Builder mapping tool does not provide the kind of block-level mapping necessary to meet stringent population equivalence. I've also learned that our PA census blocks have idiosyncrasies that can cause non-contiguous fragments. I'll be doing what I can to learn more about how to address census block irregularities and looking for tools that enable mapping with even greater precision.
Ideally, all our legislators would spend a few hours drawing their own maps. With the right tools, anyone could draw a map that is more fair and competitive than the congressional map our legislators approved in 2011.