We choose this team's map because it met all four of our judging priorities. Team members did a good job hitting their stated goals for compactness, equal population and minority representation, and their essay provides an unusually thoughtful exploration of why those goals mattered so much to them.
In the map we created, we above all prioritized the values equal population, followed by compactness. It was important to us to use this opportunity as a way to promote democracy and stimulate civic participation. Achieving a map that fell within this margin of the target population was challenging and took a lot of tedious maneuvering because we also did not want to bisect municipalities, since the ultimate goal was to promote enfranchisement.
Each district on our proposed map has a population within about 3,000 individuals of the target population goal (705,688); the population equivalence – the difference between our smallest and largest district – is 5,824 people, far smaller than in the versions of the current and former congressonal maps provided in the tool. (Note from DTL team: The District Builder tool used by our project does not let mappers carve up census tracts, which the real 2011 and 2018 maps did frequently. This means that the versions of those two maps we provided as references in the tool have much bigger population spreads than the actual maps.)
The current map also classifies five of the 18 districts as competitive, whereas ours has six competitive districts.
By prioritizing this value, we hope to validate the constitutional principle of “one person, one vote.” The United States witnessed clearly in the 2016 Presidential election that a very marginal victory in Pennsylvania can make a significant impact in the outcome of critical elections – possibly changing the course of our country and therefore our world. A map that reflects the criticality of voter turnout, coupled with a strong GOTV campaign, could inspire Pennsylvanians to register and to vote in not just presidential, but also in their local elections.
Motivated primarily by the desire to inspire civic engagement, we also strove to increase the compactness of Pennsylvania’s congressional district map. This was a challenge because of how Pennsylvania’s population is concentrated in certain localities; nevertheless, our map is more compact than the current map – 35.1 percent vs. 32.9 percent, both of which far outstrip the 18 percent compactness of the old lines rejected by the court. Our map contains 34 county splits, just one more than the current map (33) and about half as many as the old map (67).
Lastly, we understand that just because our districts are equal in size does not necessarily mean they will fairly represent Pennsylvania’s citizen composition. To address this concern, we decided that we wanted to maintain two majority-minority districts. Ideally this creates the opportunity for communities of color to elect officials who represent their interests.