The creative outreach and personal statement of Joseph Amodei and Rachel Karp influenced this choice the most. They provided an excellent map and met their valued metrics with impressive precision. We loved their account of their mapping party and how it helped them shape their goals for their map. That sounded like exactly the kind of citizen dialogue that Draw the Lines is meant to nurture. This team’s essay laid out exactly how they went about reflecting diverse points of view without sacrificing their intended goals. All we can say to this pair of theater artists is: Bravo. Take a curtain call.
Drawing a Competitive and Just Future for PA
We are theater artists and activists working to raise awareness about gerrymandering and to empower citizens to bring about fair districting in their state. We're currently working on a theater project called "Packing and Cracking" that, much like Draw the Lines PA, educates viewers about redistricting and gerrymandering and gives them the tools to draw district maps that are fairer than the ones they live under.
We're focused on reaching audiences in Pennsylvania, our current home, and North Carolina, Joseph's previous home - both states in which gerrymandering is especially disenfranchising.
We've done considerable redistricting and gerrymandering research, but the Draw the Lines' competition presented our first opportunity to draw our own maps. We had two key values while drawing our maps: competitiveness and minority representation. We value competitiveness because, all too often, gerrymandering takes competitiveness completely out of the election equation, leading to the election of politicians who pass policies that are not supported by the majority of voters. We also wanted to maintain PA's current number of majority-minority districts.
We drew a map that has 11 districts deemed competitive. Rather than being partisan-blind, we used the same kind of partisan data that is used to gerrymander to actively not gerrymander.
There were some areas (very urban and very rural) that proved difficult for drawing districts in which the difference between Democratic and Republican registration was within 10 percent. However, we looked at “Other” registration as well, and in three of our non-competitive districts, the “Other” registration is greater than the difference between D and R registration, which maintains the possibility of competitiveness, especially in the recent climate of wave elections. Two districts, 16 and 17, fall completely outside of that possibility. They are our majority-minority districts.
Our focus on competitiveness came at the expense of compactness for some districts, particularly 4, 5, and 6. But we hoped that connecting a few more spread-out and politically diverse areas could encourage competitiveness and also require politicians to reach across views to develop compromise positions - which are sorely lacking in the highly non-competitive districts created by gerrymandering.
We landed on our values earlier this month, when we hosted a map-drawing party for about a dozen of our friends. At the party, we shared information about redistricting and gerrymandering, discussed goals, and then divided into small groups to draw maps. After a few hours of working, we came together to talk about the process and give encouragement and feedback. Because there were multiple groups drawing, each one could focus on their own values, creating a diversity of possibilities and inspiration for others.
While other groups in our party finished the maps somewhat quickly, we found drawing the maps to be very challenging. Meeting the minimum requirements of equal population and contiguity became a baseline. Then on top of that we worked to create competitive districts and our majority-minority districts. The resulting map does have a few districts that might be considered funny shapes, but not nearly as many as the map drawn after the 2010 census, and its competitiveness and maintenance of majority-minority districts can serve as an inspiration for the next maps that will be drawn after the 2020 census.