Christian scored top of the heap for his category in both compactness and minimizing county splits with a map that easily passes the eye test. We were very impressed how his personal statement recounts an on-point personal experience with the effect gerrymandered maps have on elections. The statement also shows a lot of knowledgeability about redistricting in PA. He has a couple of impressive endorsements and took the brave step of presenting his map at several meetings. The only flaw holding his entry back is that he prioritized competitiveness then registered a below-median score for number of competitive districts.
A district map can stack the odds before a candidate even launches their campaign.
In 2016, my campaign trail spanned from Beaver County to Cambria County. My candidate, a Democrat, was running in a district designed to ensure the incumbent Republican’s victory.
As if partisan disadvantage were not bad enough, the district spread across three media markets, which presented a financial obstacle for my candidate. Conceding to his opponent, my candidate suspended his campaign before the primary even took place.
My experience inspired a closer look at the mechanics behind our political process and emboldened my creation of a map that levels the playing field.
This map submission checks a box in every category. All 17 districts are contiguous, jurisdictional splits are limited, and this map contains two minority districts. Incumbent protection and partisan advantage are probable, however, this map was drafted with special consideration for the three C’s - Communities of Interest, Compactness, and Competition.
When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the previous congressional map by virtue of their ruling in League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Court eliminated a gerrymander monster map.
That said, what replaced the previous map was not a perfect draft. Butler County, population 183,000, has three jurisdictional splits and is represented by three separate congressmen.
In my map, county jurisdictional splits are limited to two per district at most. Aside from Pennsylvania’s two largest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, this map was designed with a focus on maintaining whole municipalities. Continuity with elected officials is critical for a constituency.
By way of example, the 17th District was developed to reflect communities of interest. My home school district, Brownsville Area, which is mostly in Fayette County, is included in the 17th District. Brownsville is economically distressed and shares a geographical, racial diversity, and socio-economic status with Clairton or McKeesport. For that reason, Brownsville is included in a Mon Valley encompassing district.
Constituents and congressional leaders can benefit from common interests.
Finally, to ensure that candidates are cognizant of bi-partisan concerns and to level the playing field for incumbent challengers, this map contains six competitive districts. It is paramount that our leaders listen, not rest on their laurels. Competitive districts will ensure that rational actors reach across the aisle once in a while.