About Nathaniel Ropski:  I got my start drawing electoral districts on the computer in early 2011 using an app called Dave’s Redistricting. Though a lot has changed since then, this piqued my interest in electoral geography and representation. Over the years, I'ves received degrees in political science, helped manage statewide non-profit efforts, and served on the leadership team for a 2018 congressional campaign.  Currently teaching at Gannon University, I credit my family and my faculty mentors with fostering a love for politics and political history. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, playing board games, and planning my next vacation.

Judges' statement

Nathaniel’s strong personal statement highlighted his desire to create numerous competitive districts and to include representative districts. He succeeded on both accounts to an impressive degree.

Personal statement

For my map, I prioritized three major criteria to create each district. These were: protecting communities of interest, creating competitive districts where appropriate, and improving upon the previous 2018 map. Together, this schema would allow the redistricting process to go one step further beyond what was done in the court ruling.

Ultimately, representation has to be the most important criterion by which we judge our electoral districts. For this reason, my map creates county/jurisdictional splits. When those splits do occur, they don’t dilute the voting power of those affected voting blocks. Similarly, the map allows for each top 10 population city in PA to serve as an anchor for at least one district. That way, each region and population center should, in theory, find a representative that fits their specific areas of concern.

Though this does not mesh 100 percent with the Polsby-Popper idea of compactness, I would argue that districts need not be strictly compact circles so long as they protect and enhance the representativeness of the people that live within those district lines. Much like states and counties are not always perfectly drawn lines, so too can districts form a different shape if the reasoning is just.

This idea of maximizing representation also gets reflected in how many majority-minority districts I created. The Draw the Lines interface judges only one of my districts to be maj-min, but I would argue at least three (15, 17, and 18) could fall into that category, based on the demographics. If not a majority, these voices certainly represent a critical voting block.

Lastly, I felt it critical to create competitive districts.

The new 2018 map is more competitive than the previous 2010 one for sure, but my drawing takes it one step further without compromising the first criterion above. Pennsylvania is a very purple state and that should be reflected in its districts. Naturally, each party should have a base of safe districts so long as that fits a specific community, but so much of Pennsylvania is a competitive mix of red and blue – my map reflects that reality.

To end, I think my map tries to captures the best components of a representative electoral system. It does not shine in any one category from the website, but it creates a solid foundation for competitive elections and representative districts that best serves the interests of the people of this state.