Justin’s personal statement does a striking job of laying out the stakes he sees himself having in the gerrymandering issue as a youth on the cusp of voting. The rest of his essay is strong, too. But his map was weak on some metrics for his stated goals.
As an 18-year-old who will start voting this year, redistricting will affect my vote and directly shape my life moving forward. What I want more than anything for my vote moving forward is that it is as valued just as much as my fellow Pennsylvanians so that we all have an equal stake in our state's representation in government.
The three main values that I sought to prioritize were Compactness, Competitive Elections, and Equal Populations.
Although my Compactness scores were relatively low, I believe that the shapes of my districts were far more efficient than the current shapes. While the current districts are jagged and obscure shapes, I attempted to take mine as circular and even as possible. This way, the districts are truly representative of distinct geographical areas around the state and are completely contiguous.
Secondly, Competitive Elections were extremely important to me especially since Pennsylvania is traditionally a politically diverse state. Because of this fact, I got six districts to be competitive while six were majority Democrat and five were majority Republican, so that the districts are about as politically balanced as they can be. I believe that the competitiveness of these elections will help to truly represent the people of the state of Pennsylvania.
Lastly, I sought to make districts as balanced in population as possible. I was able to get every district relatively equal with a population equivalence of 3,786, meaning that my districts were within +/- 2000 people from the target population of 747,199, only non-exact due to the non-exact nature of the census tract populations. In my opinion, no citizen of PA should have a more valuable vote than another, so districts should be as close to exactly balanced as possible.
The biggest challenge that I faced in the drawing of my map was the balancing of populations. By the time I reached my 17th district, I realized that I was consistently under-populating my districts, so my 17th district became massive in population. I then had to go back and add tiny pieces to each district so that all the populations would balance out and I could get the low population equivalence that I currently have. Balancing those while also trying to keep districts competitive was a large challenge that demonstrated the true intricacies of the problem of redistricting.