Kenji Fong (Drexel Univ.) - Honorable Mention, Eastern Higher Ed

About Kenji: I am currently a student at Drexel University as an Architectural Engineering student. Besides engineering, I am passionate about photography, gaming, and technology. Despite having a strong STEM background, I have always found time to consider the political ramifications affecting my background. The most notable example would be one of my internship opportunities with the City of Philadelphia's Parks and Recreation Dept. I learned that government funding could have positive or adverse effects on a project's needs. Also, projects are best developed with the cooperation from community leaders for the best results. From that experience, I realized in the future that I want to facilitate the interests of communities around me on engineering projects. Therefore, I would have the possibility to create a sustainable future for all to live in. But first, the process of electing legislators needs improvement, so we can truly have a sustainable future worth enjoying.

Judges' Statement

Kenji's map was slightly above average across all metrics, and he did very well in minimizing county splits, a reflection of his desire to keep communities of interest together. He also focused closely on minority representation and did so in a meaningful way. 

Personal Statement

For this map, the goal was to promote the communities of interests, competitiveness, and compactness. I wanted to promote these parameters in this map because the proposed districts would be inclusive for all Pennsylvanians from all backgrounds. As a result, each district will have candidates that will truly represent their constituents.

When I think about one of the reasons why America declared its independence, a memorable quote that is reoccurs in my mind, “No taxation without representation”. Sadly, Pennsylvania before 2018, did not have the congressional seats that were proportional to the state’s demographics and political alignment. Instead, these seats allowed candidates who were hyper partisan and ignorant of their constituents’ needs in Capitol Hill. Luckily, with the current lines, the districts became more representative of the Pennsylvanians in their respective regions. However, with the 2020 Census on its way, anything could change with the next congressional map.

The borders could be hyper partisan again and stand against what our founding fathers had fought for, or it could be better than before. The borders of this proposed map addressed the political diversity in each region and the demographics of the constituents in their border. More specifically, the considered demographic parameters were constituents’ socioeconomic standing, racial identification, and age. As a result, there are nine competitive congressional seats and the compact borders represent the racial demographics in each district.

The best example would be the 5th district in the Philadelphia suburbs, where the population of people of color is 23.6%. Also, elections could be competitive in the district as there is a 0.8% difference between registered Democrats and Republicans. In terms of economic diversity, the district contains working class constituents from Upper Darby and upper middle-class constituents from Kennett Square. As a result, there could be a candidate from any background, therefore constituents of this district would choose the proper candidate.

For the most part, the main goals of the map were achieved as there are competitive districts in suburban Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Areas that would normally be ignored in the current map, but now recognized in this map, have finally gained political representation. These areas are the Lancaster and State College regions. However, there were some challenges with the border creation in terms of proportionality and splitting. While the suburban counties had precinct borders that accommodated districts with the community and political representation in mind, there were splits in these counties.