Farzam Mir (Concerned Citizens for Democracy, Philadelphia) - Honorable Mention, Eastern Higher Ed

About Farzam: I am a rising senior at Hamilton College studying government and history. I have a passion for politics and have focused on the formation of political entities throughout college. This summer, I have been given the opportunity to intern for Concerned Citizens for Democracy (CCFD). At CCDF, I have been able to work with lawyers, engineers, and computer scientists to learn more about gerrymandering in Pennsylvania and neutral mapping strategies.

Judges' Statement

A well-rounded map that met or exceeded the average benchmark for each criterium. Through his internship with the CCFD, he demonstrated a strong background and interest in this issue. Keep it up, Farzam!

Personal Statement

Democratic and Republican politicians alike have deliberately split communities for the sake of political gain and maintenance of political influence. Although an electoral map is inherently political, we must be cognizant of the communities that are divided throughout the partitioning process. Gerrymandering guarantees a certain outcome of an election, but the practice also disrupts the functioning of life within electoral constituencies. Above political ideology, people within a community share a similar set of values and needs, but through gerrymandering, neighbors become intentionally separated against their will.

My map seeks to reduce the amount of split counties in Pennsylvania. To a large extent, I was able to accomplish this as out of 67 counties only 16 were split. By limiting these divisions, the map prevents voters sharing any given community from being separated into different electoral constituencies that more than likely do not represent their values.

In addition, the map ensures that several standards are met. All 17 electoral districts are contiguous, compact, and most can be considered as competitive.

When starting the map, my primary goal was to create compact districts that reached the target population of 747,199. Though not all of my districts match the population target exactly, all districts are within 1,400 people or less and deviate by only .19 percent.

Importantly, I ignored political affiliations of certain areas as partitioning areas by ideology is, by definition, gerrymandering. Instead, I made sure that the counties were not unnecessarily divided. Because some counties must be divided, I attempted to ensure that whole communities would be intact.

Growing up in Lower Merion township and Montgomery county, my community has been the victim of gerrymandering in the past. Without gerrymandering myself, I moved Lower Merion’s constituency outside of Montgomery County to join similar communities in Delaware County. Radnor, Upper Darby, and Drexel Hill share the Philadelphia suburbs, and I believe that this partition is harmless. Using this standard, I made sure all county splits included the entirety of township boundaries and were divided without political repercussions.

Interning for Concerned Citizens of Democracy, a non-profit battling gerrymandering in Pennsylvania, I have been taught that electoral districts are more than lines on a map. Where those lines divide and intersect, there are people situated in their own communities and have their own beliefs. If we are to redraw the maps, we must be considerate of all of Pennsylvania’s communities.