Personal Statement

In my redistricting of the Pennsylvania state senate, I focused on creating as many competitive elections as possible while keeping them compact and centered around communities of interest. I chose competitiveness because it is really the mark of a functioning democracy: when candidates actually have to compete for votes by proposing policies attractive to their electorates, as competitive districting facilitates, then the quality of the policies proposed will increase. Improved policy will benefit everyone, and, furthermore, by having a district with close-to-even partisan split, more attention will be drawn to races in the district. This can have the effect of increased participation in the political process and increased voter turnout, which is a hugely important for the stability of liberal democracy.

To this end, my map includes 14 competitive districts: 6 fair Democratic districts, 4 even, and 4 fair Republican. It was actually much more difficult to maintain a partisan balance for the state at-large because the geography of voter distribution makes it much easier to draw the districts in favor of Republicans than Democrats: Democratic voters are generally concentrated in large cities, which are very easy to Gerrymander. In fact, this was so difficult for me that I almost had to Gerrymander a fair partisan distribution. In the end, however, I think I found this balance; my map makes it possible for either party to win a majority of the seats, though it may be slightly easy for Republicans (it’s still not perfect, though a significant improvement).

The challenge really increased when I set for myself the goal of keeping communities of interest together and keeping the districts compact. There’s no specific definition for a community of interest, so I defined it as a population that has a common, or more common than with other surrounding populations, culture, whether because of local human or physical geography, common ethnicity, or common political interest. As far as compactness is concerned, I think I did fairly well, as there are few odd-shaped districts, and the few that do exist, exist because it is maintaining a community of interest.

I am currently in a class called “The Mathematics of Voting” at Gettysburg College, which I currently attend. I participated in the Draw-the-Lines Competition as a part of that class, but I drew this map outside of our required classwork; we had to draw the congressional districts for class, but I wanted to take a step beyond. This has been a lot of fun and I am grateful for your consideration of my map.