The judges selected this submission for one main reason: the team’s thoughtful personal statement highlighted something critical in the democratic process, compromise. The mappers acknowledged that they had differing opinions at the outset but managed to work together and compromise to get to a reasonable result.
Starting off, we both had different ideas of how the map should look and reflect our key factors. It was a bit of a challenge to balance what we were looking for and to find a middle ground between our opinions. In the end, we found that our opinions weren't different at all. We simply had different ways and methods to accomplish our goals. Overall, the main idea to tie our map and our opinions together was fairness. Though our main focuses seemed different at first, we found a way to coordinate our reasoning. Our main focuses in designing the map were equal population, contiguity, and competitive elections.
In the end, we managed to figure out that what we were both looking for was proportional representation of Pennsylvania's citizens. The main concept to unify our differing opinions was that of fairness. The concept of fairness fed into the rest of our key factors as well. We were both interested in keeping the districts both organized and fair simultaneously. This was the most difficult task in designing the map.
Balancing contiguity, minority representation, and competitive elections proved to be quite challenging, especially when taking into account each of the districts' populations. In the end, we only drew 10 competitive districts, instead choosing to focus most of our efforts into drawing each district within its target population.
Creating majority-minority districts also proved to be quite challenging, considering the distribution of Pennsylvania's population. We managed to create 2 majority-minority districts in our map. Originally, we had hoped to create more, but it became too difficult to balance our main focus on equal population, as well as our supplementary focus on contiguity, with the creation of majority-minority districts. All 17 of our districts are drawn to be contiguous. Staying organized and keeping the map neat was important to us, and contiguity was the most efficient way to accomplish this. Contiguous districts can also be effective against gerrymandering and can help create more competitive districts.
Reaching the final product was far more difficult than the both of us had originally anticipated. Not only did we have to work to create a fair map, incorporating our main factors as well as we could, we also had to balance our differing factors and collaborate as two individuals with strongly differing goals to achieve when designing the map.
However, working together gave us both different perspectives on what fairness really means, and how some people view fairness differently than others. As we reached the finishing touches, we realized that we had not only learned more about the process and difficulty of redistricting, we also learned more about why the process was so difficult. Redistricting is a very complicated process open to a myriad of different outcomes merely based on what factors are more (or most) important to those drawing these new districts. Creating our best interpretation of a fair map was difficult, but doing so was worth the time and effort, as it resulted in a just election map.