We loved Sara’s essay, where she distilled the Draw the Lines mission so effectively. We also applauded her novel approach to drawing a map. Granted, Sara has some pretty impressive skills and is now a two-time DTL honoree. But if she can draw a fair map with solid metrics in 90 minutes, then it’s clear that Pennsylvanians are ready, willing and able to take the lead on this key component of democracy in 2021.
What if the independent citizens commission weren't well funded and we only had a limited amount of time and resources to draw a fair map? How fast could a map be drawn and how fairly?
With limited time, one could really only consider the easiest criteria of compactness (including minimizing county/municipality splits), contiguity, and equal population. I relied on my previous experience of living in western, central, and eastern PA and having previous conversations with many friends and family who live throughout the state (or who had once lived in other areas of the state) to serve as my knowledge base for which communities are most alike.
With this in mind, I was able to create a map in 1.5 hours on a Sunday afternoon starting from scratch.
How fair is it?
There's not much time to be able to really dissect but the eyeball test mostly shows pretty clean districts with little wonkiness. District 9 looks like an old man pointing toward NY (or is it NJ?); but that one finger is census tract 24700 in Dauphin County and the rest of his hand is 2300, Lebanon County neither of which can be split up and are both wonky themselves.
A comparison to the available statistics from the current 18 district congressional map suggests that my map matches or outperforms in all categories: competitiveness: 8 vs 5; Majority-Minority: 2 vs 2; Compactness: 37.1% vs 32.9%; population equivalence: 6707 vs 10423. A notable point, I was able to adhere to the Voting Rights Act with 2 Majority-Minority districts without consideration.
In summary, based off of this very limited study, even an underfunded citizens commission given little time could draw a more fair map than our legislators have drawn who had way more time and money. It is much easier to create a fair map than an unfair one.
Study Disclaimer: My manual work disregards all of the currently available technology which allows nefarious actors to create a virtual unlimited supply of unfair maps with sinister precision. However, if this technology were used for good it would still be easier and faster to create a fair map!