Oliver’s stated priority in drawing his map was to preserve communities of interest, and he did a great job at that. One example is how he created an interesting “doughnut hole” in the middle of Allegheny County around the City of Pittsburgh. He also made a big effort to talk to members of his college community, learning about the different perspectives of city, suburban and rural populations, demonstrating a Draw The Lines value of political and social engagement. His essay strongly supported his priorities and was well written and persuasive.
Having congressmen elected by single-seat, geographical constituencies is not constitutionally required, even though all states do it.
This decision by the Commonwealth to have these sorts of elections, and the logic that supports that decision, should be respected. The way I see it, the main advantage single-seat constituencies confer is that communities of interest can be directly represented. If we are going to have geographical representation than those seats should represent the most coherent and consistent communities possible while maintaining equal population.
I tried to make this my first priority when drawing the lines. I wanted maps that were reasonable when it came to the other legally required criteria--respecting jurisdictional boundaries, compactness, ect.--but those criteria only served to limit the map. But the most compact map is not the best map.
What makes a map more than reasonable, what makes it optimal, is the degree to which it groups together people with common interest, true communities. To that end I talked with fellow Undergraduates at Penn State about what was the ‘community’ that most defined their interests where they lived back home.
It wasn’t easy to get a useful answer sometimes, mostly because communities don’t usually fall into groups of just over 700 thousand geographically contiguous people. The first answer I usually got revolved around Urban/Rural/Suburban splits. The response I got from suburbanites around philly was that they felt like part of the community of “people who live outside philly” rather than any specific area of Philly suburban area. Surprisingly enough, the second answer I got revolved around physical geography, especially for people from generally rural areas. I tried to follow these principles, as well as the specific suggestions, while drawing this map.