About Michael Rodyushkin: I am a junior at Abington Heights High School. I am a dedicated member of my school's debate and robotics clubs, tennis team, and coding program. I hope to use all the knowledge from these organizations to gain a master's in software engineering at a well-known university. Outside of school, I enjoy playing piano, running a middle school robotics team, and volunteering at local groups.

Judges' statement

It is rare to see map achieve such a great level of competitiveness with so few county splits.  It’s clear that this team solicited a lot of input and was very thoughtful about how to use it.  The personal statement makes a strong case against gerrymandering and is very honest about the struggles the pair had in trying to balance goals that were in tension.

 

Endorsements: 9

Personal statement

The United States is currently in a crisis. Politicians are no longer loyal to the people they represent but loyal to their parties. Because of this, our political parties are becoming more polarized and extreme, which is making our politicians uncivil and stubborn with the other party. Therefore, as informed citizens of the United States, we set out to redistrict our state to bring agreement between the parties and to fight against injustice in our country.

For our map, we attempted to create competitive districts in order to force politicians to listen to the demands of both parties to have any chance of winning a position. However, as our human geography teacher pointed out, there are around 800,000 more registered Democrats compared to registered Republicans. Therefore, to fairly award the Democrats a slightly higher chance of winning, we have created three districts in which Democrats have an extremely high chance of winning.

Again, however, we were met with constructive criticism, this time from one of our parents who is right-leaning. They argued that three districts for Democrats gives them too high of an advantage, so we created one district that Republicans are sure to win to give Democrats only a two district lead.

Furthermore, we attempted to create compact districts because people that are close to each other likely have similar issues that they want to be addressed. Finally, at the request of one of our friends, we created two districts where a majority of minorities live to give them some power over politicians. However, we did not want to give more since minorities make up roughly 19 percent of the population and two districts is roughly 12 percent of all of Pennsylvania's voting power.

The biggest challenge we faced was attempting to balance out all the different values we have and others in our community have about the districts. At times, it was difficult to keep things compact while remaining competitive because of the large areas in Pennsylvania where a certain political party dominates. To solve this issue, we simply divided this large area into separate districts that would branch into other areas that had a different political party majority.