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About Don Henry: Don is a senior at Baxter Springs High school. He turned 17 in the fall. When he is not making legislative maps, he sings in various musical productions.

He played professor Harold Hill in BHS's acclaimed 1979 performance of Music Man. Perhaps it was playing a snake oil salesman that nurtured Don’s interest in politics.

Gerrymandering is important to him because he has lots of friends named Gerry and believes they often mander, or, perhaps that’s meander — much as this bit of prose is doing as it approaches the maximum 100 word mark, which going to come very soon, like right about now.

Judges' Statement:

We chose Don's map because she met all four of our judging priorities. She did a good job hitting her stated goals for compactness, equal population and minority representation. She highlighted jurisdictional splits and her map did well there. Her essay clearly described her goals and how she achieved them.

Don's Personal Statement

I agree with writer Anand Giridharadas’ belief that a failure to adequately appreciate the possible depths of human darkness may be leading humankind off a cliff.  He speaks specifically  of a caustic optimism that convinced Silicon Valley’s young genius class that “new” and “revolutionary” were synonyms for “progress.” 

But how new, really, is this kind of cheerful blindness? When I look at Article 1, Section 2, of the Constitution, I find myself wondering whether the men who wrote it, even after winning an unwinnable war and surviving their initial confederation, adequately understood the potential darkness in all people. If they had, might they have composed more than five paragraphs on how the lower house should be apportioned and the population of the country counted?  Could they, then, have prevented these few paragraphs from so often being fashioned into a muzzle for voters who don’t agree with the ruling party?

That is why I made my raggedy map. In a country where universal enfranchisement has always been an uphill fight, I came to realize that gerrymandering stood there, as the last gatekeeper, offering this final retort to so many voters: “You don’t matter anyway!”

Making the map was difficult. The math and the geography hurt my head, but the process of spending hours clicking and dragging and scribbling numbers on a piece of paper helped me understand the dedication of so many people who know that it’s the boring, and often unseen, pulleys and spindles of government that keep our republic from slipping under the waves. When this machine breaks, it is up to us to fix it.

Our elections must work because, without fail, charlatans and demagogues do slither their way into elective office. It is the machinery of fair district-making that guarantees the dark seeds they plant  don’t have time to take root before voters show them the door.

Pennsylvanians once again find themselves at the fulcrum of our nation’s unique expression of republicanism. And, once again, they have stepped up to see that it shall not perish from the earth.