Michael Borowski (Temple Univ.) - Honorable Mention, Eastern Higher Ed

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

This map does a great job on minimizing splits (26) without impacting his overall compactness score (37.7%). As an intern for the Concerned Citizens for Democracy, he took their standard approach. Holding himself to specific rules, he was still able to produce a fine map. His interesting personal statement articulating his clear mapping strategy made this entry stand out.

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.

CCFD 's rules worked in both rural and urban areas. Limiting municipal splits and including entire counties benefited compactness and was more representative of communities of interest. The CCFD design standard met the goal of limiting splits to only 12 county splits reported through Dave’s Redistricting App statistics.

The design standard created by CCFD had created a visually pleasing map, with minimal municipal splits, and good statistics. CCFD does not use partisan or demographic data in their mapping process in order to stay neutral and avoid gerrymandering. The method inherently abides to the Voting Rights Act with two Majority-Minority districts as well as Article 2, Section 16, of the Pennsylvania Constitution which emphasizes compactness, contiguity, population equality, and limited municipal splits.

Municipal splits, compactness, and minority representation were the map’s leading statistics. One area that struggled was competitiveness. 8 districts lean Republican while five lean Democratic. Four districts fall in the competitive range. My intention was to split large counties like Philadelphia and Allegheny in a nice fashion, which was achieved, but could have unintentionally packed democratic voters. This is something I would improve upon in future revisions, but may require a trade-off of additional county/district splits. As the grading statistics sometimes inversely affect others, it is important to critically weigh variables and trade-offs. This was one of my biggest challenges. Focusing highly on compactness and municipal splits lowered the overall competitiveness.

I had followed CCFD methodology throughout most of the map except near Allentown, where I had boxed myself in and then chose to sacrifice two townships along the immediate border to include Allentown into a single district. I believe most townships were kept intact across the state and I only caught 2 townships to be split in the end, which resulted from the use of census tracts rather than census blocks.

I had communicated with CCFD members a great amount during the mapping process, highlighting areas that challenged their guidelines and discussing ways around challenges and solutions for the future. I thought the design standard was easy to follow and resulted in a strong map. I am happy to present this map following a specific design criteria to DTL. This competition is a great way to show how gerrymandering can be avoided, and working with CCFD showed that a design standard can be potentially implemented into future redistricting work.