As they explained in their strong essay, this team really dove in deep into research before drawing their map and used a lot of data in deciding where to draw the lines. The result was a nicely balanced map, well-rooted in political realities. Metrics were strong nearly across the board, though it was a bit surprising to see a Philadelphia-based team offer up only one majority/minority district.
After taking an extensive look at the political concentration of Pennsylvanians, we decided we would focus on making our map even more reflective of the partisan composition of the state's diverse regions.
Considering that this is a 17-district map, it would come into effect after the 2020 census, which would likely eliminate one current House district from the state.
Political factor-wise, we especially took note that, despite the state's role as a battleground in the nation's most recent presidential elections, the number of registered Democrats still sits above that of registered Republicans. As a result, and combined with the 2018 midterm results from the House of Representatives, it can be seen that this Democratic edge must be better accounted for in a district map.
Observing the pure vote totals from this election, the Democrats received over 55 percent of the vote statewide, while only winning half of the seats under the current map.
In what could conventionally be seen as a perfect equilibrium between the two parties, our map does more to account for this Democratic total amount. While there are 11 districts with a Democratic edge, our team put emphasis on the fact that two of these (the Seventh and 13th Districts, the Scranton and Erie areas of the state, respectively) voted much more heavily for President Trump in 2016 than Mitt Romney in 2012, offsetting any real Democratic advantage there.
Assuming that the representatives for each district stay as we project, the two parties will hold eight seats apiece, with a ninth one (the eighth district, home to Berks and Schuylkill Counties) being a toss up, as the number of registered voters for each major party sits at approximately 33 percent.
While this map does leave party registration margins low enough for either party to expand their seats in wave elections, a politically neutral environment would allow for every district incumbent, save two (Democrat Madeleine Dean and Republican Dan Meuser, most likely), to hold onto their districts.
Another key feature in these maps is compactness. Using Polsby-Popper compactness scores, the state of Pennsylvania would be home to the country's fifth-most compact congressional districts, a massive improvement from the current map. When returning to the merits of our congressional map, one must look at its perfect political balance between parties, an exceptional compactness score, and this map's ability to allow for current incumbents to better represent their constituents.