To qualify for State Runner-up, Team Wilkes finished 2nd in the Eastern Region.
Team Wilkes' map has multiple strong points. The team members met their stated goals and had the best score for jurisdictional splits among the maps in their regional group. Their thoughtful essay mentions the sustained conversation with classmates and their professor that went into the map. We also love that they describe this map as just the first of many as they try to master the art of redistricting.
After the team behind Draw the Lines spoke at Wilkes University about the lingering effects of gerrymandering in modern politics, our group was intrigued to see if we were up to the task. One glance at the old congressional map reveals a disorganized mess of districts.
In Pennsylvania’s gerrymander, “Goofy kicking Donald” became one of the most infamous examples in the nation. After considerable discussion and time, our group decided to espouse population, contiguity, compactness, and county lines as our most important values.
Population was our most important criterion due to the U.S. Supreme Court requiring that congressional districts be of equal population to achieve the goal of “one person, one vote.” While contiguity was also a requirement, we strove to keep our map’s borders as neat as possible. Because county lines themselves are not compact and because populations differ, it was nearly impossible to achieve high compactness and meet equal district population requirements simultaneously. Therefore, while pursuing our primary goal of equal population, we also tried to preserve the integrity of whole counties. This helped us meet the twin goals of compactness and avoiding county splits. Even when we crossed county lines, we kept the crossover minimal, and maintained smaller municipalities whole and intact.
As you’ll observe from our map, we achieved these goals. Our map balanced these four values where applicable, but we paid the most deference to county lines. Without knowing every regional interest in Pennsylvania today, we opted to keep counties intact. To do this, we only crossed county lines where it was absolutely necessary to meet population requirements.
When comparing our map to the old or the current congressional maps, you’ll see that we minimize dividing counties into multiple districts. We believe that our approach also ensures that voters will be better able to identify what districts in which they vote. For example, all voters in Luzerne County belong to District 7. In the new congressional map, Luzerne County is separated into Districts 8 and 9. Although we cannot know the creator’s intent for every change, we believe simplifying the process via county lines is preferable. Ours is a map that keeps districts far more compact (40.3%), within county lines, and has an equal share of the population. We look forward to improving upon this map in future competitions to attain even higher echelons of map quality.