Randee Wismer (Drexel Univ.) - Honorable Mention, Eastern Higher Ed

About Randee: Randee Wismer is a third-year student at Drexel University pursuing her BA in English, Literary Studies. She has taken her Co-Op opportunities to serve non-profit, public interest organizations. She is a part of the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity staff as their social media specialist. She plans to pursue her JD after completing her BA.

Judges' Statement

This visually pleasing map managed two remarkable scores: 12 competitive districts with only 27 count splits. It handled a number of communities pretty well. As a Drexel student, Randee showed off her knowledge of Philadelphia with an effective grouping districts. Her personal statement connected the real-world implications of current redistricting with the history of the issue.

Personal Statement

It is my understanding that the 2010 congressional district map for Pennsylvania was rejected as unconstitutional for being drawn in a way that favored the Republican party in obtaining seats in the House. This process is known as gerrymandering, where the district boundaries are manipulated to favor one party over another. With this in mind, I ranked “competitive elections”, where each party has an equal chance of winning a district, as one of my top priorities for drawing the district lines. I attempted to create statistics where the percentage of registered Democrats and Republicans was as close as I could get within the physical boundaries of the county locations. Or, in the case that I could not get an even split, I compensated by attempting to balance the number of majority-Democratic districts to the amount of majority-Republican districts. This resulted in 12 out of the 17 districts qualifying in the “competitiveness” category of the statewide stats.

While the “competitive elections” value was a top priority of mine, the category that I cared about most was minority representation. As America is populated by mostly white individuals, people of color do not always have the opportunity to wield political power. It is for this reason that I wanted to give minorities the possibility for representation, which led to the creation of 2 minority-majority districts. This “minority representation” value is explained as wanting a map that “[ensures] communities of color have regular, meaningful opportunities to elect a candidate of their choice”, which is what they are hopefully able to do in these areas. These districts are composed mostly of Philadelphia and its surrounding towns in Montgomery County, as they have large minority populations. I wish that I was able to create more minority-majority districts, but the population consolidation of communities of color decreases as you travel north and west away from Southeastern Pennsylvania.

I had hoped that I would be able to create districts with cleaner lines, as I did not set out to split up counties. However, in order to achieve both competitive elections and equal populations, I was forced to spilt up counties on several occasions. When I first went through the “Flashes of Insight” exercise, I actually ranked “compactness” and “county splits” quite high but had to forgo those as I focused on other values. In return I created 17 contiguous districts, 12 of which are considered to have competitive elections.