Natalie Britton (Univ. of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County) - 1st Place, West Higher Ed

Judges' Statement

Natalie's map was the most consistent of the submissions in her division. Her personal statement clearly stated her goals, and the map met them. She notably referenced the 2011 map to see what not to do. Her deployment of communities of interest was noteworthy, as she wanted to use mid-sized cities like Lancaster, Harrisburg, and Reading to anchor separate districts. A fine effort.

Personal Statement

The driving force behind my map was to keep communities of interest together. One look at the 2011 map was inspiration enough for me to design the next redistricting with the primary goal of preventing another "Goofy Kicking Donald Duck" district. I just couldn’t wrap my head around how a representative could balance the needs of the suburbs of urban Philadelphia with that of the rural areas around Lancaster. As a native of the Lehigh Valley now attending school in Pittsburgh, I’ve experienced the importance of community organization both at the neighborhood level within a city and at the regional level. I therefore see no value in splitting neighbors' votes into multiple districts, since the policies that will affect these communities will never be so fragmented or targeted.

While I faced the most challenges in the Lancaster, Reading, and Harrisburg areas, I settled on making each of these the focal point of a separate district. Because I’m not as familiar with these areas, I would have liked to have had a conversation with local leaders to better inform my decisions regarding which nearby areas were the most important to each urban center.

In addition, I see the most value that local representatives can offer as stemming from their connections to local groups and individuals, and so I also focused on compactness to foster closeness between voter and representative. Combining my prior two values, I worked to create two compact majority-minority districts in Philadelphia and to keep historically black Pittsburgh neighborhoods like Homewood together so their voices could be louder even if majority-minority districts were not possible.

As a final note, I would like to thank my classmates and professor of the introductory GIS course that I took at Pitt this semester for the weeklong discussion we had on the topic of gerrymandering. Alongside their encouragement, I was motivated to make this map by the exciting idea that someone of any skill level like me could successfully visualize their ideas for a better democracy on such an accessible media as a map.