To qualify for the state championship, Philip placed first in the Eastern region.
Philip was the best among the mappers we evaluated at creating a balanced map. He did a really good job overall, registering the second-best population equivalency score as well as strong compactness numbers, while still ending up with competitive districts. His metrics are solid, and his explanation of his goals is sophisticated and excellent. He developed his map after discussion and debate with several of his friends. In short, his entry checked all the boxes, with a flourish.
This map, Constrained Competitiveness, seeks at once to prioritize competitiveness, and demonstrate that doing so does not mean that subsidiary values need be disregarded, in particular those of minority representation and compactness. Even though this map ensures that 12 of 18 districts are competitive, it is also able to guarantee two Minority-Majority districts and a high level of district compactness (over 39%).
Competitiveness was prioritized because the responsiveness of democratically elected representatives to their constituents is a function of the incentives faced by those representatives. Under conditions of minimally competitive general elections, representatives are correspondingly less sensitive to the concerns of the median voter, and more attuned to their co-partisans (as they only risk losing re-election by suffering a defeat in the primary) and their campaign donors (for analogous reasons).
This map was developed on the basis of discussion and debate with several friends. This process highlighted the need to consider other values in addition to competitiveness. Descriptive, not merely substantive representation, is an integral democratic function, and so it was essential that PA retain at least two minority-majority districts, even if this made maximizing the number of competitive districts more difficult. In addition, compactness was considered as an objective criterion by which to evaluate whether districts represented geographically coherent constituencies. Even though these three values cannot all be perfectly achieved simultaneously, this map demonstrates that prioritizing competitiveness need not mean sacrificing minority representation, compactness, or other values completely.
If the purpose of this exercise is to show contestants that the plurality of different ends one might seek to satisfy are not perfectly reconcilable, and that any particular map involves certain trade-offs, the experience of drawing and discussing this map also taught this further lesson:
Even when adjudicating amongst incommensurable and mutually incompatible goals, debate and discussion can help produce outcomes of principled compromise.
Such compromises seek to satisfy the competing claims of different values in a meaningful way, while acknowledging that the trade-offs involved are real and that only one, and not all, values can be given strict priority. In this sense the “Constrained Competitiveness” map represents an attempt to produce the map most consistent with competitive elections, the value most essential to achieving aims of democratic accountability. At the same time, it is constrained by and embodies the practical democratic ideals of consensus and compromise, by ensuring that the criteria of minority representation and compactness were given meaningful consideration.
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