Nate had a compelling personal statement that explained why this is an important issue to him, and he put in extra work to help craft his map. He had a solid compactness score on his map.
Being from Pennsylvania and of a minority group, I am invested in the state’s redistricting. I grew up in conservative county, but after I moved to Philadelphia, I started seeing how districts are drawn to crack liberal areas, packing metropolitan voters together and lumping smaller liberal outskirts into surrounding districts. This dilutes the strength of those voters and forces them to vote for politicians who don’t represent their interests, despite the proximity to major cities. So, I decided to focus on Minority Representation and Competitive Elections. It’s starting to feel like elections aren’t competitive and that similar politicians always win. By increasing minority representation, I think candidates would need to please a more diverse voter base.
I spoke with Mike Baselice, my professor for my Campaigns & Elections course, who runs a polling firm in Texas (Baselice & Associates) and has worked campaigns for statewide, national, and presidential races. He’s even worked on redistricting maps in Texas, so I thought he could give me some good insight into how redistricting.
At first, I thought splitting up all major cities would achieve my goal. My thinking behind this was it would increase the minority population across the state. However, when I consulted with Mike, he encouraged me to focus instead on “communities of interest,” which would help solidify minority voting power in heavily heterogenous areas, while increasing the power in more homogenous areas. He told me my idea to split up Pittsburgh could potentially help achieve my goals because its minority population is relatively low for a city and would bolster the surrounding counties with more minority representation. However, he told me when I tried it in Philadelphia, it wouldn’t work as well because it’s such a minority stronghold and splitting it could actually hurt minority representation. He suggested I split Philadelphia into 2 minority strongholds and a few strong surrounding counties.
Some challenges came up when redistricting the central counties of the state, as well as the counties surrounding Philadelphia. Because the population is so sparse in the central counties that I was worried they were getting too large and wouldn’t include as many communities of interest. The opposite occurred in the southeastern part of the state, where the counties are so densely populated it was hard to find good splits. But I eventually was able to come up with a map that I liked.