First, let's just appreciate just how good a mapper Kyle is. Exhibit A: For the third time in three DTL competitions, he is a statewide honoree for his map. Yes, Kyle indeed has some game. In this round, we were impressed that he entered both House and Senate maps. Kyle’s metrics and overall look of his Senate map were quite strong. As usual his personal statement was comprehensive and well-reasoned. Kyle adds to his long list of DTL honors.
This was a very fun map to draw, and I think it’s one of the best maps I’ve put together to date. Although it’s not perfect by any measure, it has a large number of competitive districts (30, including 29 tossups), passes the eye test, and doesn’t, except in extraordinary circumstances, split towns and cities. Plus, the map has majority-minority districts to guarantee minority representation. But once again, our twisted voting system, with single-member districts where the power of your vote depends on your ZIP code, comes through.
I focused on drawing competitive and compact districts and keeping communities of interest together. Too often, however, I had to compromise among these goals – for instance, at times preserving a county within one district and drawing a competitive district were mutually exclusive. So long as the districts stayed reasonably close, I chose competitive districts over anything else.
The “analysis” tab in Dave’s Redistricting App provides us with a count of the number of competitive districts, but I didn’t use it. Instead, I used the the Cook Political Report Partisan Voting Index (PVI) which was computed for each district. This is a better estimate of the actual expected result, because it takes into consideration more presidential election results than DRA does. UsingPVI allows us to see the voting trends in an average year, which is what we want to do to create competitive districts.
I am defining a competitive district this time as a PVI of 10 or less points. Ultimately, 30 of the 50 districts were competitive, only one of which had a PVI of more than five points (2nd district, Republican lean). This map is as good as I could do in terms of competitiveness while keeping the geographical order of the map intact.
Overall, drawing this map was a fascinating exercise. While the congressional maps were purely logistical puzzles – “how many tossups can I cram in?” – this one was not. This map involved a lot of thought about what values ought to be prioritized, and in which order, in such a way so as to maximize the democratic input of the people on their legislature.
But most of all, and coming back to one of my first points, drawing a state legislative map also convinced me further that the current electoral system is woefully inadequate. Our first-past-the-post system where whoever wins the most votes wins the seat produces safe seats where voters don’t matter. It creates a large possibility that a party losing the popular vote can win a majority in the legislature.
Most developed countries worldwide use a system of proportional representation, where seats are allocated according to the proportion of the vote earned by each party, meaning that “safe seats” are a thing of the past and that every voter’s voice counts equally.
The fact that almost half of the state would still, despite the best efforts of Pennsylvanians, have no say in choosing their safe-seat representative shows that our system is no longer fit for purpose.