Adam hit it out of the park on every metric. He had the best compactness score we saw. His well-written essay reveals that he talked to many people, pondered what they said and let it influence his choices. He is one of several entrants to submit multiple quality maps.
His maps demonstrate that fair maps can be drawn prioritizing different sets of values, if you have a citizen mapper who’s willing do the work and put aside personal political preferences. Adam is just such a mapper. Shining a spotlight on people such as him, showing what they are capable of, is precisely why Draw the Lines exists.
While the former congressional district map for Pennsylvania sparked the imagination of many with its highly contorted shapes that evoked Goofy giving Donald the boot (or was is the other way around?), this map, “Dense Districts,” doesn't stir the imagination much at all.
And that's exactly the point, because this is a map that is all about compactness. Specifically, this map seeks to create extremely compact districts while maintaining minority-plurality districts and achieving good population equivalence.
When I talked with my friends and family about what factors were most important for creating congressional districts, the responses generally fell into two camps: those who valued competitiveness the most, and those who valued compactness the most. Since I also made another map that prioritized competitiveness, it seemed appropriate to make this map that uses compactness as the metric of focus.
I must admit that a focus on compactness also reflects my personal opinion, as I believe competitiveness in districts should come via ranked choice voting reforms (and other similar election reforms) and not through mapping.
I believe that an ideal map is one which is as compact as possible, with no contorted shapes whatsoever. Thus, an ultra-compact map will avoid both gerrymandering for political favor and also the “reverse-gerrymandering” (as I call it) of creating competitive districts that are not especially compact and do not reflect the political will of a particular geographical area.
While keeping the minority plurality districts and retaining compactness proved to be relatively easy, it was a major challenge trying to create districts that were ultra compact and maintained a good population equivalence. After many adjustments, I am satisfied with the final outcome - an extremely compact map with district shapes that look a lot like circles - and most importantly, don't look like Disney characters kicking one another.