Mike is a professional writer, which shows in his crisp, lucid personal statement. He is a first-time mapper, which didn’t really show in this gorgeous map with its stellar metrics. He’s clear on his personal stake in the issue, as a suburban Philadelphia resident who felt badly used by the notorious, former, “Donald Duck kicks Goofy” map of the Seventh Congressional District. He’s clear about what mapping goal he did and didn’t care about. A remarkable thing about his map is how many competitive districts he created without even looking at the political data on the platform. His focus on “balance” and compactness did the trick anyway. He also did plenty of civic engagement, including with his state representative. Bravo.
I entered this competition because of my strong opposition to gerrymandering. Until 2018, I was in the 7th congressional district, one of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the country. As a registered Democrat, I felt that my vote had been gerrymandered out of relevance.
When I heard about this competition, I knew it would give me an opportunity to do more than just complain about gerrymandering: I could get some hands-on experience with redistricting. The process would help me understand the difficulties of drawing a fair congressional map. I felt that I couldn’t complain if I didn’t take an opportunity to try it myself.
My goal was to create a good all-around map, one that wasn’t necessarily the best in any one category but was good in most and could be an example of a fair map. My two main priorities were population equivalence and compactness. I wanted the districts to have even population totals, and to represent a community and not split counties, towns, and small cities unnecessarily. This was very challenging.
I did not look at political affiliation, although my map still has 11 competitive districts. I tried to create a map that is the complete opposite of a gerrymander, one that neither side of the political spectrum would consider unfair.
I did not focus on creating majority-minority districts because that would have been difficult to balance with my priority of compactness. Nevertheless, my map has two majority-minority districts.
I did speak with numerous people about my map-drawing, including about 15 relatives and friends as well as my PA state House representative, Tim Briggs. All were interested in the process and all of them had heard about gerrymandering and redistricting, but many of them were unsure of details, such as when the redistricting would be done and how it was affected by the Census. Everyone had opinions and asked a lot of questions. Additionally, it was a fun opportunity to engage with many people on a non-partisan undertaking, especially during these difficult times.