Jake Mulhern (Fox Chapel HS, Allegheny County) - Honorable Mention, West Youth

Judges' Statement

Jake's map and personal statemetn starts an interesting discussion on majority-minority districts, which judges felt was worthy of an HM. How did VRA impact his map?

Personal Statement

After the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau confirmed that Pennsylvania will lose one of its congressional districts, the state’s redistricting becomes an increasingly crucial issue. So, while Republicans and Democrats fight to protect their incumbents in the current redistribution, I figured I’d try my hand at the process. When reappointing congressional districts in Pennsylvania, I sought to prioritize equal population, contiguity, and minority representation. I aimed for my seventeen election districts to have as near the same number of people in them as possible, in an effort to comply with the principle of “one person, one vote.” However, I did so without breaking the contiguity of each district. It makes the most sense to have districts where no one part is disconnected from the rest, and no connections are necessarily minimal or absurd. But more important to me than upholding constitutional principles and reasonable apportionment, was the goal for communities of color to have a legitimate opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. As plainly stated by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, electoral district lines cannot be drawn to dilute the voting power of minority groups, but lines may be drawn to create a Majority-Minority district. A Majority-Minority district is one in which a minority group comprises most of a district’s population. In the case of my map, I intentionally created two of these districts, by drawing lines near and around Philadelphia. These districts make it so that a constituency may not be divided between several districts (thereby letting no district achieve a majority) and hopefully increasing the number of minority representatives in state legislatures. These problems matter to me, but there are always other considerations in drawing lines for voting districts. Such considerations were made apparent to me in my conversations with friends and family members regarding what they thought was most important to consider in this process. As this topic should very much welcome debate, I was sure to keep an open mind in these conversations. Obviously, the process was not easy, and I encountered a few challenges in drawing my map. Apportioning contiguous, compact districts was inherently difficult, but in addition to an effort to create more than one Majority-Minority district, the process was even more considerably tedious. But, by using DistrictBuilder’s “blockgroup” function, the process only required trial and error to flow smoothly.