Jesse Stowell set out to maintain communities of interest, attain equal populations and keep his districts contiguous. He accomplished all three, and submitted a very strong essay, to boot. He managed to avoided dividing municipalities (except Philadelphia) together – an accomplishment. His map is eminently fair.
This map aims to reflect regional communities so their values are represented in each district. All municipalities were kept within the same district (as far as I could see within District Builder) – except for Philadelphia, which accounts for two whole districts, plus some of Southwest Philadelphia in a third.
Examples of regional identities taken into account were whole counties (e.g. Lancaster, Bucks), regions around a small city (e.g. Greater Harrisburg, Greater Pittsburgh), and broader geographic identities (e.g. Central PA, Lehigh Valley). Keeping these communities together as district units represents better unifying needs and wishes within communities.
This is in direct opposition to a map that splits municipalities. My districts do not divide cities into multiple districts. They also take into account the many suburban and rural communities that are based around cities, and aim to group these communities together. In exclusively rural areas, the districts take rural identities into account by limiting splits in counties and following major roadways that tie areas together.
I took these different approaches for urban vs rural areas rather than throwing urban and rural areas together. The biggest difficulty of this map came in dividing Eastern PA suburbs. I decided to place some cities on the edge of districts to avoid splitting them. Because Eastern PA has so many small cities, I aimed to keep regional identities together using roads, counties, and radius from cities as guides. This map keeps 43 counties intact. Another 21 counties are split between two districts, and three counties are split three ways (Montgomery, Monroe and Allegheny).
I opted to split some counties to preserve a more equal population distribution between districts. For example, Districts 1 and 6 only have a population difference of 265. This is because in Warren County, I moved one census tract east, districting it with North Central PA counties (District 6). I did this because if this census tract was grouped with Northwest PA (District 1), there would be a population difference between the two districts of 4,447.
Names help to define communities and give quick, clear information. These districts could be nicknamed or described as the following:
1 – Greater Erie (Northwest PA)
2 – West-Central PA
3 – Greater Pittsburgh
4 – Southwest PA
5 – Routes 219 & 22 (Southwest Central PA)
6 – North Central PA
7 – South Central PA
8 – Lancaster & South York
9 – Greater Harrisburg & North York
10 – Rural East Central PA
11 – Northeast PA (Greater Scranton/Wilkes-Barre)
12 – Lehigh Valley East (Greater Allentown)
13 – Urban and Suburban East Central PA
14 – Bucks County and East Philadelphia suburbs
15 – Suburbs North of Philadelphia
16 – Southwest Philadelphia and suburbs
17 – Central and South Philadelphia
18 – Northeast Philadelphia