We were wowed by the team’s thoughtful personal statement, as it showed a grasp of this issue far beyond their years. We appreciated their explanation of how their values guided the way they drew their map. With a nice-looking map, outstanding teamwork, and a top-5 compactness score in the division, this earned 1st prize honors in the region.
We believe that equal population, competitiveness, and contiguity are important to creating fair districts in Pennsylvania.
If districts don't have equal populations, citizens living in more sparsely populated areas will receive more representation than citizens living in denser areas. Because people in geographic proximity tend to share political views, this gives disproportionate voice to one political party. While it is certainly important to give the minority party a voice in government, that voice should be enhanced only to promote discourse and reflection. Every individual should have an equal voice in government regardless of where they live and Pennsylvania's legislature and its congressional delegation should reflect Pennsylvania.
We want our districts to reflect their populations. Though we see value in competitive elections, we don't believe in redistricting for the sole purpose of creating balanced elections. In Philadelphia, for example, that would be pretty hard to achieve.
However, balance breeds discourse. Minorities force majorities to think hard about their policies. Politicians with competitors must fight for their votes and compromise with their opponents. This is how government is meant to work.
And in fact, our state is split between the parties: about 47.6 percent of the population are registered Democrats, about 38.1 percent are registered Republicans and 14.3 percent are registered independents. Though rural districts typically go red and urban districts typically go blue, there are many rural regions (particularly in northeastern PA) that are divided more evenly than one would think. Why not promote competition in Pennsylvania? Why not challenge voters to consider more than one side of an issue? Why not hold our politicians to a higher standard?
Competition should, of course, be considered only to a certain degree. Shared values within a voting district certainly allows a greater proportion of the electorate's beliefs to be represented, and that is important. Representatives should know their district and voice its concerns. Tthis is much easier when the concerns are shared by the general population. The easiest way to achieve this is through contiguity. Contiguous districts group people of close geographic proximity, and thus of close cultural values, under one representative to ensure that they can represent the district well.