Simon Elisii (Drexel Univ., Montgomery County) - Honorable Mention, Eastern Higher Ed

About Simon: A born and raised Pennsylvanian from Montgomery County, currently living in Philadelphia. (The best city in the world!) A graduating senior at at Drexel University studying business marketing with an interest in politics and non-profit work.

Judges' Statement

The judges felt that Simon deserved honorable mention for his use of creative district shapes to achieve a very strong competitiveness score (13 out of 17 districts).

Personal Statement

In any democracy, elections should be free and fair. Therefore, I knew I wanted to prioritize two things when drawing my map; competitiveness and compactness. These values are important to me for several reasons. Prior to Pennsylvania redrawing their congressional districts in 2018, I lived in district number seven. It was considered by many to be one of the most gerrymandered districts in the entire country. It cut through five different counties and was obviously drawn in a partisan way to favor a republican candidate. In a state like Pennsylvania, which is evenly divided between democrats and republicans, it is imperative that our congressional districts are drawn in a fair way. Competitive districts would also force politicians to compromise with each other. This bipartisanship is something that would benefit every Pennsylvanian. Therefore, it’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure that our elections are as competitive as possible and is what motivated me to draw my map this way.

When drawing my map, I consulted with a friend who was drawing his own. Although we both agreed that Pennsylvania’s congressional map should be fair, his interpretation of a fair map was one that had an equal number of liberal and conservative leaning districts. Although this would give equal representation to both parties, I believed it would only contribute to the deepening political divide in American politics that we so often see. Furthermore, it is important to note that there are an odd number of districts which would make it impossible to create an even number of districts for each party. I decided that the best way to draw a fair map was to ensure that each district was as competitive as possible.

What was most challenging about drawing my map was keeping my districts as compact as possible while also remaining competitive. With democrats clustered in and around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and republicans spread throughout the middle of the state, having roughly fifty percent of each in every district proved to be very hard. Although my compactness level wasn’t as high as other maps, it was still above thirty percent. Furthermore, I ended up with thirteen competitive districts, which is more than twice the 2018 Fall competition’s average.

Our congressional districts should be drawn in a fair way to more accurately represent the desires of the American people. However, this isn’t always the case. In many states across the country, districts are drawn to favor one political party over another. This is why I think “Draw the Lines” is important. While this activity was enjoyable and entertaining, it also sparks a necessary conversation about the effects of gerrymandering and the importance of fair elections.