Team TomBen (Thomas Joyce and Benjamin Nelson of Drexel University) adopted a unique and no-doubt challenging approach that earned them runner-up in this division: trying to keep watersheds and common economic zones together. Their map appears to have achieved their goal. Its overall look left us thinking it was a rational way to divide up the commonwealth. The map managed to maintain strong objective metrics as well, and even came with an endorsement.
Our goal in our redistricting of the state of Pennsylvania's districts was to find a new principle to replace the gerrymandered and polarized nature of the current districts. Our belief is that Pennsylvania's districts do not fairly represent the population of Pennsylvania. Our interests were to keep watersheds and common economic zones of Pennsylvania together, but with this came a few issues. Watersheds of Pennsylvania occupy three main regions of Pennsylvania. In the western region of the state is the Ohio River watershed; in the center of the state you have the Susquehanna River watershed, and in the eastern region of the state forms the Delaware River watershed.
These three watersheds were subdivided into different districts on our map based on common economic interests. In addition to the three main watersheds, there are two minor watersheds, Lake Erie and the Potomac River watersheds. The Lake Erie watershed had to be added to a district of the Ohio River watershed due to the low population in the Lake Erie watershed. The Potomac River watershed was able to have its own district.
Our last major interest was to try to not split municipalities. In some instances, we had to split some municipalities, as in Philadelphia, due to the large population of Philadelphia. These three interests - watersheds, common economic interests, and minimum municipality splits - are needed to bind communities together. The current districts do not bind communities together. In actuality at times, cohesive communities get split up under the old maps. It is our belief that communities are more likely to have increased voter participation in Pennsylvania if the communities are bounded together.
The major challenges faced when redistricting our map were trying to balance the population, lining our districts along their appropriate watersheds, and avoiding splitting municipalities in in the rural regions of Pennsylvania.
Watershed alignment was handled through using mapping software that showed the various watersheds of Pennsylvania with the counties, allowing us to align the districts to the watersheds.