Michael Borowski (Temple Univ., Concerned Citizens for Democracy) - 1st Place (tie), PA House

About Michael: I am originally from Lackawanna County but spent my previous five years in Philadelphia attending Temple University. In pursuit of my graduate degree in Geographic Information Systems, I had interned with Concerned Citizens for Democracy (CCFD), a nonpartisan, nonprofit association fighting to end gerrymandering. CCFD had introduced me to the Draw the Lines competition and I now hope to test a variety of strategies in the contests to come.

Judges' Statement

We couldn’t find even a sliver of daylight between Michael’s effort and the similar map that shares top spot in this category with him.  His metrics were impressive across the board and his explanation of the mapping method proposed by Concerned Citizens for Democracy, where he interned, is clear and well-done.

Personal Statement

Redistricting should be fair, equal, and combat gerrymandering. This map was created following the redistricting guidelines set forth by Concerned Citizens for Democracy (CCFD), a non-partisan, non-profit association fighting to end gerrymandering. CCFD’s design standard is briefly summarized as:

1. Divide the Commonwealth into roughly equal population districts using the largest political subdivisions (counties, townships, wards). Do not split any municipal entity more times than absolutely necessary.

2. Add/subtract whole political subdivisions at the boundaries to equalize population, layer by layer, in a compact manner.

3. Repeat step 2 for smaller political subdivisions to arrive at equal population districts splitting only the final political subdivision on a common boundary between two districts.

4. Test for compactness using mathematical formulas. Choose the most compact maps.

5. Final adjustment to comply with Voting Rights Act, preserve communities of interest, avoid incumbent contests (optional) so long as this does not violate the above conditions.

Following CCFD’s design standard helped me create a PA House map with compact districts and minimal municipal splits. This also seems beneficial to communities of interest. Dave’s Redistricting App reports that the expected number of county splits should be 202 and this map only produced 188. DRA’s statistics show that proportionality and compactness scores were both good, which is challenging to do as these statistics sometimes contradict each other. There was also a total of 20 majority-minority districts in the output.

Competitiveness was a weaker statistic as compactness and municipal splits were of higher priority. CCFD’s method omits the use of partisan and demographic data in the mapping process. The map resulted with ninety-six districts leaning Republican and sixty-six leaning Democratic, with forty-one in the competitive range.

The CCFD design standard worked for most rural and urban areas throughout the state, although some areas such as Lancaster county presented a challenge with irregularly shaped townships that were sometimes non-contiguous. Limiting township splits was also prioritized alongside county splits across the state.

Vast discussions with the members of CCFD showed strengths and weaknesses of my map according to their rule set. District 8 near Lackawanna county would disobey the CCFD rule set, but I noticed the double county split too late in the process and did not have the time or surrounding population equivalence to correct it.

Overall, the map had strong statistics in proportionality, municipal spits, compactness, and minority representation. It was interesting to follow a set methodology in the mapping process as a test of whether such a design standard can be implemented in future redistricting processes.