Michael Skros (Millersville Univ.) - Honorable Mention, Eastern Higher Ed

About Michael: Michael Skros is an undergraduate student at Millersville University. He is a dual major in Environmental Hazards & Emergency Management and Geography with a minor in economics. Michael is an active member of the Millersville University Honors College, International Association of Emergency Managers, and the American Red Cross of Southeastern PA!

Judges' Statement

Michael's map had average to solidly above average map across the board. His personal statement and personal experience shows thoughtful engagement with how compactness can be an important metric for communities to be kept together in maps.

Personal Statement

The goal of my map was to redistrict Pennsylvania so that it contains compact districts that encompass naturally occurring communities. The term “representation” connotates the need for an elected leader to accurately represent their own unique community. This type of representation is not possible when districts are designed to fulfill political motives rather than to encompass a specific community that resides in a particular geographic area. Most communities do not sharply curve, bend, or skip across a far-reaching area so neither should congressional districts! Communities do not stop at county borders, so it is not necessary that congressional districts do so either. For example, my hometown of West Chester in Chester County has more commonality with municipalities in neighboring Delaware County than it does with rural areas located in the western portion of Chester County.

During my time as a community outreach intern with a local state representative, I experienced the impact of gerrymandering first-hand. The district was not remotely compact, and it contained a sharp northward turn that resulted in an unnecessarily elongated shape. It is challenging to centrally locate a district office in a gerrymandered district making it difficult for constituents to reach the various services offered by their representative’s office. Geography often determines what types of problems you face; whether it be an issue with a natural resource, a complaint about a school district, or being impacted by a natural disaster. Since geography often dictates what problems people face, geography should dictate how districts are drawn because representatives should work to help solve these issues.

Drawing my map to emphasize compactness in addition to population equivalence led me to create districts that extend outward from Pennsylvania’s two major cities. Since many people moved out of cities into suburbs, communities often expand outward from the city and typically share a common culture. While values such as competitiveness are healthy for our democracy, the goal of legislative districts is not to promote partisan competition and competitiveness can occur in primary elections. Many communities share similar political values and face similar challenges so districts should be drawn to represent naturally occurring communities.