Herbert De Cokere (Drexel Univ., Philadelphia) - 1st Place, Statewide Higher Ed

About Herbert: Hello, I am a Junior at Drexel University, originally from Belgium. I am studying finance and accounting, while working towards my CPA. I was introduced to Draw the lines through a recent political science course I took. I am thankful to have been given this opportunity to draw a map because I enjoyed the process of creating and experimenting with maps and I will continue to be involved in the future.

Judges' Statement

To borrow a term from baseball, Herbert showed himself to be a “five-tool” mapper with this entry.  He scored well-above the median on all four metrics that he prioritized while writing an in-depth personal statement that showed great issue grasp while taking us inside the persistent, iterative process he used to draw his map.  Just a super-solid map and essay.

Personal Statement

In the process of creating my map I started by dividing up Philly and putting my focus on keeping compactness. I tried to form districts that crossed the least number of crosses into different counties. After I divided all the districts throughout PA and all districts met the requirement, I found that although the Target statistics were around the median, I tried a different approach for a new map. Once I started drawing the different districts, I decided to start in the bottom left hand corner of the map near Pittsburgh and focus on getting every district with a population that is 747,000 or very close to it. Unlike my first attempt I did not focus on looking at competitiveness and compactness until I had formed all of the districts. I wanted to maintain districts close to each other and keep the counties bunched together. I started by selecting a bunch of counties and getting close to the target population and then selecting more census tracts to add into the district. When the selecting the counties, I tried to pick counties that made sense in my head or where in the same general location. I would do this with a couple of the districts at a time until I made my way across the map. During the process of making the map I didn’t consult with anyone or ask advice I just experimented with different locations for districts to create the best-balanced map possible. The population difference that some areas like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have compared to the upper parts of PA was a very large surprise to me.

After I completed the first map, I compared my statistics against the median of the previous year, and they were around or a bit better than the median. For my second map and only focusing on the population in each district I was very surprised when at the end I had 11 districts that were competitive compared to 9 on my first map and then I had 2 majority/minority districts, which is one more than my first one. With my large focus on the population the population equivalence dropped by more than 4,000 points. The only thing that did not improve was the compactness, but it only dropped by 2% compared to my first map. This proves the point that you can focus on one or 2 statistics that you think are most important and achieve a good result, but that it is very hard to accommodate for all the statistics.