Sunny Zheng (Temple Upward Bound, Philadelphia) - Honorable Mention, Eastern Youth

About Sunny: I am a sophomore at Central High School, Philadelphia, PA. The most interesting subject for me is mathematics. I love to learn, practice and perform traditional dances in and out of school. During my free time I usually bake or cook. In the future, I hope to become an actuary.

Judges' Statement

Sunny was part of a new, strong cohort of mappers from Temple Upward Bound. Judges enjoyed her thorough process, as she talked to her instructors and peers to help determine the mapping values she would implement in her map. She then circled back to them requesting feedback for her final map. They loved that she took the opinions of those she asked under advisement. That her map produced 11 competitive districts shows she has some skill with the digital pen as well. 

Personal Statement

Redistricting is overall an acceptable process because it reflects population change in voting districts while ensuring everyone in the United States is fairly represented. However, I don’t feel the same toward gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is an unfair process and does not take voters into consideration. It will only benefit the individual party or the politicians themselves.

I prioritize the values of competitive elections and equal population the most when redistricting. Competitive elections allow for each party to have a relatively equal chance to win, which I think is fair and will make politicians work harder to win voters. For example, politicians could have spent more money on public services to gain voters. On the other hand, I believe the mapping value of equal population will ensure the influence of each district is almost the same, which would stop unequal representation from happening.

I learned and discussed the different mapping values with my instructors and peers before attempting to draw my map. I would say many of us had agreed to the fact that the value of competitive election and equal population are the ones that are in our “top 5 mapping value”. Therefore, I think creating my map based on these two values will satisfy more voters. I also presented my “finished” map to my peers and instructors. They provided the feedback of making more of my districts hit around the target population since one of my mapping values is equal population. After considering their feedback, I re-organized my districts. The result was surprising because I ended up making all of my 17 districts hit around the target population of 747,199.

A challenge I faced was making the districts into equal populations while also making it competitive. It was difficult because usually places with larger populations are democrats and smaller populations are republicans. Therefore, I had to make the districts less compact. Furthermore, I consider prioritizing the value of minority representation a challenge. In the beginning, I was also trying to prioritize the value of minority representation. However, after several trials, I realized it was extremely difficult to make it happen while considering my other values. In the counties of Pennsylvania, there are not many minorities except the region where Philadelphia is. Therefore, I had to give up on the value of minority representation in order to demonstrate my other two values to its full potential.