About Rachel Himmel:  I am from Pittsburgh, and I recently graduated from Fox Chapel Area High School and will be attending the University of Michigan in the fall to study mathematics and data science. I would like to thank my AP Government teacher, Mrs. Klein, who is the reason I entered this competition and who has inspired me to always believe in the power I have to influence politics. 

Judges' statement

This entry was exemplary.   A fine-looking map that did a great job with the challenges presented by Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Solid metrics across the board.  Rachel’s thoughtful essay displayed a strong command of the issue. What particularly struck us was how she delved into the demographic data to work to create districts with a balance among age groups. No other mapper we saw did anything quite like that. 

Personal statement

In my map, my initial focus was competitiveness, because I feel that all Pennsylvanians should know that their vote will be important and they will have a say in their delegation to Congress, even if they live in an area where they are a member of a political minority. 

However, in discussing my plans with others, I came to the conclusion that forcing competition by pulling Democrat-leaning areas into the districts containing the greater Republican population within central PA was not the best way to represent the people of Pennsylvania.  Instead, I decided to make nine of the districts competitive, so that over half of the districts could fall in either direction and guarantee that our state does not favor a specific party.

For the remaining eight districts, instead of splitting them equally between the parties, I decided to have five Democrat-leaning districts and three Republican-leaning districts.  This better represents the political makeup of the state, as an even split would not accurately portray the fact that as of 2016, there were 4.1 million registered Democrats in Pennsylvania, while there were only 3.2 million registered Republicans.  he Democrat majority in these eight districts will be balanced by the nine competitive districts, ensuring that members of both parties have a powerful voice.

Minority representation was also an important factor in the making of my map.  In compliance with the Voting Rights Act, there are two majority-minority districts.  Beyond that, I made sure that give other districts also had a significant minority population, close to 20% of the total population in the district, so that minority opinions would be heard even though they do not make up a majority.

Further, I felt that a balance of age within the districts was important because of the vast discrepancies in political opinion depending on age. Ignoring the notable outlier of District 13, which represents a much younger population because of its urban location, the districts all have a population within 3.5 percent of the state mean in each age group.

Finally, as a resident of Pittsburgh, I felt that the city and its surrounding areas needed greater representation, instead of having one district centered around the downtown area and the outer areas lumped into larger surrounding districts.  Thus, I created two districts to contain the area around Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to increase our level of representation.