Michael Skros (Millersville University) - 2nd Place, Statewide Higher Ed

Michael is a senior undergraduate student at Millersville University. He is pursuing degrees in Emergency Management & Geography with a minor in economics. Michael is a leader in the Millersville University Honors College, serves on the board of the MU International Association of Emergency Managers student chapter, and volunteers with the American Red Cross. In his free time, Michael enjoys reading, playing piano, and fighting to end gerrymandering!

Judges' Statement

Michael returns to the DTL winners' club with yet another solid congressional map. His 41% compactness score, along with an impressive minimization of splits, set his entry apart from most others. His personal statement also starts to address what many advocates call "responsiveness," an emerging value among reformers. 

Personal Statement

Drawing fair Congressional districts secures accurate representation for Pennsylvanians at the federal level. Gerrymandering districts for federal representation is particularly toxic because it can have a near-zero net result. States without an independent process often create gerrymandered maps to increase their party’s power at the federal level. However, since both parties participate, the gerrymandered districts essentially cancel each other out! For example, during the 2011-2012 reapportionment process, Maryland was gerrymandered to benefit Democrats while Pennsylvania was gerrymandering to benefit Republicans. The net result between the two states is similar to a situation in which both states create fair maps. Creating gerrymandered districts results in highly partisan politicians and a disconnect between members of Congress and their constituents.

For this map, I emphasized compactness, minimizing county splits, and party advantage. These metrics are the same ones that I prioritized in my state senate entry. Before mapping, I consulted several peers who live throughout the Commonwealth to determine what values they would prioritize during the mapping process. Besides equal population, compactness, county splits, and party advantage were all considered important metrics.

I drew a map with an average compactness score of 41% while splitting sixteen counties. I also ensured that the statewide election results were reflected in the electoral results of the individual districts. Since Republicans narrowly won the popular vote in Pennsylvania in 2016, the 8 Democratic-leaning and 9 Republican-leaning districts accurately reflect the will of the voters.

Some challenges I faced when drawing this map were balancing compactness and county lines. Since some countries have jagged edges that drive down the compactness rating, I opted to split some countries. Furthermore, I intentionally created two Democratic-leaning districts around Allegheny County to fulfill my party advantage metric. Some of the cleanest looking Congressional maps provide Republicans with a significant advantage simply due to the political geography of Pennsylvania. No single metric has a near-perfect value on this map, but no map is ever perfect. I feel this is a fair and balanced map that blends partisan fairness with a pleasing appearance.