About Team Wilkes:

Gregory Chang (left): I came here to draw a map and drink milkshakes, but I'm all out of maps and lactose intolerant. 

William Billingsley: I'm a sophomore at Wilkes, studying political science and history. Having served four years as a healthcare specialist in the Army, I set my sights on learning the intricacies of political science to continue helping others. When not studying, I  can be found playing Ultimate Frisbee.

Geraldine Ojukwu: I'm a senior, majoring in political science with a minor in economics. I plan to attend law school in the fall and am currently working with a professor and a team of students to help start a nonprofit for the community. 


 

Judges' statement

We found this powerhouse team’s personal statement compelling, with its robust discussion of how competitiveness is at the core of the American spirit. Their discussion of how they worked to balance their map’s competitiveness with a concern for communities of interest was very smart. We liked how they tipped their hat to one of last fall’s honorees, then went that map one better with their “triple bull’s eye” districts around Pittsburgh. And they garnered a nice collection of endorsements.

Greg's 1st Map

Endorsements: 3

Personal statement

 The United States has a long history involving prominently competitive behavior.  For the most part, behavior resulting from the constant attempts to one-up any opponent has led the United States to yield some of the most revolutionary and life-changing events and inventions in the world. 

 In keeping with true American fashion, our attempt to reduce partisan gerrymandering within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has centered around ensuring the competitiveness of each congressional district.  In addition to making districts competitive, we focused on creating districts that would represent constituents in similar environments (i.e. urban, suburban, and rural).

        The value of competitiveness speaks to the heart of the American spirit, because it is an important facet to getting higher quality results in every aspect of life.  Congressional representatives need, hopefully, to represent, at least, the majority of their district's constituents.  What better way to hold politicians accountable than to force politicians to feel the pressure of re-election?  In fearing the risk of losing re-election, politicians will undoubtedly attempt to heed their constituents' wants and needs.

        Our map manages to ensure the competitive nature of 11 districts out of the 17 that are inferred to be the new standard for Pennsylvania moving past the 2020 census.  Of the districts that we were not able to make competitive to the desired extent, most are located around largely urban areas of Pennsylvania - including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Allentown, and more - where there are usually a heavy number of registered Democrats and a considerably smaller amount of registered Republicans.

In seeking another criterion through which a competitive Pennsylvania could be achieved, we concluded that environment plays a large role in the everyday wants and needs of constituents. 

 Whereas urban issues require solutions practical mainly, or only, for urban areas, the same applies to rural issues and solutions and to suburban issues and solutions.  Hence, we attempted to create a districts that are as competitive as possible when looking at party lines and represent, to the best of our ability, constituents in similar environments based on each municipality's/county's population density and prior knowledge of select Pennsylvania towns and regions. 

 Around the Pittsburgh area, we took inspiration from the Team Bulls-eye map that won honors  in the Fall.  We built on their work to create districts that upheld competitiveness in the Pittsburgh area.  We felt it was appropriate to use the tactic only in the Pittsburgh area, as we were able to get most of the districts surrounding other urban areas to be competitive without using the “Bull's-eye”  method.

Why were so focused on competitiveness?  The two-party system that exists within the United States is a distinctly American feature that resulted from the competitiveness of our Founding Fathers.  Whether or not fair districts can exist in a two-party system with political biases so entrenched is up for debate. Some would argue that Federal congressional districts within states should be replaced by a system of single-transferable votes to more accurately capture the people's wants and needs from government.  However, upending the status quo takes a lot of time and the problem with which we are faced requires a more immediate solution that works within, and slightly around, established rules and institutions of American democracy.