Samuel Kolins and Lena Kushleyeva (Philadelphia) - Honorable Mention, State House

About Sam and Lena: Sam and Lena live in Far northeast Philadelphia. As math and computer science nerds, making better maps was a fun challenge for us. We also love the outdoors - including running through the woods while orienteering.

Judges' Statement

Sam and Lena worked together to draw one of the most competitive State House maps entered into this round of our competitions, while also successfully minimizing population deviation and meeting the median compactness score. The fact that they were successful in merging two often conflicting goals (competitiveness, compactness), and that they meanginfully spelled out why that is so difficult in their personal statement, makes this entry worthy of an honorable mention.

Personal Statement

The primary goal of this map is to create a large number of competitive state House districts. The secondary goal is to maintain enough compactness in the districts to avoid district shapes that are confusing to voters and create distrust of the redistricting process.

As a demonstration, in this map we took a very narrow definition of competitive: even percentages of Republicans and Democrats. By this metric, 82 of the districts are competitive. With this setup, the overall control of the House could easily be swung in either direction based on the parties' relative performance in these competitive districts.

The competitive nature of these districts will:

  • Help encourage more centrist candidates to be nominated and elected.
  • Make sure that elected officials must respond to the needs of their constituents to be reelected. 
  • Give voters more of a feeling that their votes really do matter.

Due to the geography of the state, there will also be other districts that lean strongly towards one party or other. The representatives elected from these districts will help ensure that the state House contains a wider range of voices that represent some of the diverse viewpoints contained in our state. In many of these districts, party primaries will be the most important step in determining who win the House seat.

It would be possible to create an even greater number of competitive districts by using long and narrow or oddly shaped districts to connect up heavily Democratic and heavily Republican areas into one district.

However, for this map, we wanted to keep the districts relatively compact. The compactness goal was secondary to the goal of competitiveness, but districts should pass the "eye-test" of not looking like they were drawn in weird ways that would make voters suspicions. This compactness will also make it easier for voters to know what district they are in, allow candidates to reach out to voters more efficiently, and keep more local communities within the same district.

Overall, compared to the current state House maps, this map will encourage more competitive elections while simultaneously getting rid of some of the long, twisty districts that reduce voter confidence and engagement.