Concerned Citizens for Democracy (Philadelphia) - HM, PA Senate

About Concerned Citizens for Democracy: We are a nonpartisan, all-volunteer group of lawyers, technical analysts, and activists fighting to end gerrymandering in Pennsylvania.  The team supported a lawsuit (Agre v. Wolf ), which exposed the extraordinary collection of partisan data that was used in 2011 to gerrymander Pennsylvania's congressional and state legislative districts with unprecedented precision.  Our Draw the Lines map submission grew out of this work. 

Team members: Rob Williams, Brian Gordon, and Anne Hanna

Judges' statement

This entry is an amazing piece of work with a phenomenal statement. The team showed a great deal of collaboration and thoughtfulness. Their metrics were also among the best in the division, including a very impressive compactness score. One slight flaw: This map has a few districts that the platform flagged as non-contiguous.  Despite this, this map is otherwise so good it deserves recognition. 

Personal statement

This submission is made on behalf of Concerned Citizens for Democracy (CCFD), a nonpartisan, all-volunteer group of lawyers, mapping analysts, and activists fighting to end gerrymandering in Pennsylvania.

The goal of CCFD is to design and develop rigorous redistricting design standards that are neutral and judicially enforceable to end or limit gerrymandering. These rules could be used by the legislature or a commissions to redraw district lines at any level of government – congressional, state legislative and local.

The CCFD rule set first adopts the four (4) principles set out in Article 2, Section 16 of the PA Constitution. Redistricting must create districts that are (1) compact, (2) follow county and municipal boundaries, (3) be nearly equal in population as practicable, and (4) “[u]nless absolutely necessary no county, city, incorporated town, borough, township or ward shall be divided in forming either a senatorial or representative district.”

CCFD adds a fifth (5) design requirement to require whole municipalities be added or removed in layers following the borders of counties. In this manner, municipalities are added along the full length of the border in a single layer before the second layer of municipalities is broached. By applying this easy-to-apply method of adding municipalities in layers, populations are distributed along the county edges in a way that sustains overall district compactness.

These five (5) rules guided the drafting of our first version of a state Senate or map. Populations and geographic political boundaries are the only data required. Regarding population equality, the judicial guidance of +/-5% deviation across the 50 districts was used. Demographic and partisan data were restricted from use.

The results are surprising in that many desired outcomes of fair redistricting are achieved by adherence to these five design rules. Compact districts are more competitive. Compact districts encourage minority representation. Communities of interest that track municipal and neighborhood boundaries are better represented. These governance results accrue atop the constitutional, statutory and/or best practices for districts to be compact, contiguous, equal in population, and made of whole political units.

These 5 rules yielded the following results for the PA Senate map based on the analysis function of DRA 2020 for this map:

• 51 of the 67 counties are wholly intact represented by one or more districts with no incursion into a neighboring county. 12 counties required border splits to balance district populations that crossed the border of two counties. 4 counties in challenging suburb/rural areas (Berks, Lancaster, Luzerne, Westmoreland) were split across 3 districts.

• Of the 50 Senate districts, 13 are competitive based on the PVI measure provided by the DRA 2020 platform and applying the Cook PVI competitiveness definition from R+5 to D+5.

• 5 districts are Minority-Majority districts, all in Philadelphia - 3 Black, 2 Mixed Black-Hispanic

One concern was identified. While legal, the wide range of the population equality dispersion of +/- 5% presents a problem for redistricting. The wide latitude on population allows more whole counties to remain intact, thus supporting one of the four PA Constitution principles. However, in the case of Pennsylvania, lightly populated districts are more frequently encountered in rural areas of the state, and denser districts with populations at the high end of the range are found in urban areas. Given the partisan distribution of Pennsylvania across the state, one finds state Senate seats represent fewer voters in rural districts than urban. While this disparity is legal for the time, it none the less engenders another opportunity for bias among district designers to gerrymander within the boundaries for partisan advantages. A tighter range of population deviation on the +/- 5% would generate greater equity.

Rigorous use of the CCFD redistricting design standards in a disciplined manner yielded a very high proportion of compact districts that can easily be examined by communities, political staffs and the courts. Original drafts of any redistricting still require broad community participation to evaluate the maps and identify inadvertent division of communities of interest (COIs). Yet CCFD is confident that adopting the 5-rule design standard and it application in a rigorous manner with achieve the aims of citizens for fair districts wherein elections can be competitive and legislative representatives responsive to the people.