Gregory Chang and William Billingsley (Wilkes University) - PA Senate Semifinalist

Personal Statement

Recognizing the roughly even partisan divide between Democratic and Republican voters over at least the past decade, we set off to create districts that would both reflect the way Pennsylvania voters typically vote while ensuring that, where possible, competitiveness would prevail. While attempting to create competitive districts, we were also determined to keep districts as compact as possible. Looking at the results of our map (23 Republican districts, 22 Democratic districts, and 5 “even” districts), we believe that we achieved our goal in creating a map that represents Pennsylvanian voters while promoting political competition.

Because of Pennsylvania’s essentially static voting record in terms of partisan distribution, and with no reason to assume that Pennsylvanian voters would break out of this mold, we determined it best to represent the people’s will in as many districts as possible. Despite Democrats and Republicans holding a roughly even number of registered voters in Pennsylvania, Democratic voters tend to condense near urban areas while much of the rest of the state is dominated by Republican voters who manage to outnumber Democrats in rural areas. Because of this, most Republican districts are observed in rural areas while most Democratic districts tend to come from a few areas, like Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Philadelphia. In light of this dispersion, and the presence of overwhelmingly Republican districts, we attempted to use packing to our advantage in creating fairer districts, both in terms of number of Democrat/Republican districts and in terms of the individual district; the more Republicans packed into rural districts, the better chance to use the few Democrats available nearby in a fair district (we also attempted to apply this strategy to the Philadelphia area, where districts were overwhelmingly Democratic).

Over half of our districts hold compactness scores of 60% or more, with our average compactness score being 61%. We realize that some of our districts managed very poor compactness scores (eg. District 7 at 27% and District 19 at 25%), because we were forced to abandon our secondary principle of compactness to maximize the fairness in each of those districts. In addition to a secondary principle of compactness, we tried to leave counties in tact where possible, however this seemed to work only in rural, Republican areas due to lower populations near the center of the state.

We set our standards high for the Pennsylvania State Senate. Little consideration for factors like minority-majority districts is due to our belief and evidence that partisan politics prevails. We thought it best to maximize competition and compactness where possible, and we are proud to say that we achieved our goals.