The hits just keep on coming from Will, one of Draw the Lines’ most-honored mappers. Working solo this time, Will poured both individual research and strong engagement with others into the making of his map, which scores very high for compactness. His personal statement, well-crafted as always, begins with an eloquent denunciation of how gerrymandering harms democracy. Well done.
As a rising senior studying political science in the year 2020, my interest in gerrymandering is what you could expect from any politically active college student residing in Pennsylvania. While gerrymandering is often overlooked in the face of more pressing political matters, the fact remains that gerrymandering is tantamount to a betrayal of the democratic process. With the U.S. Supreme Court’s abject refusal to slay the gerrymander with any amount of finality, the task must fall to everyday citizens like myself to do what the Supreme Court will not— do something about it. Of course, actually slaying the gerrymander requires the full participation of citizens if we are to ever make progress in our herculean task.
With that being said, I opted to draw a new map for the state Senate for this round. Like with my previous map for the state House, I used an artificial population goal for an extra layer of depth. Thus, my most important value was population equivalence. For this map, my population goal was for each of the fifty districts to be within their population targets by a value of 250 people. My rationale was that since the state Senate has 25 percent fewer districts than the state House, each district’s population deviance threshold would also be reduced by 25%. As evidenced by the map data, my map’s final population deviance was below 0.18%, far below the maximum of 10%.
As with my previous House map, I could have drawn districts with the greater flexibility that state districts are given. But once more, the question would have been: why? With my population target met, my map automatically supersedes any accusations of gerrymandering. After all, it is difficult to pack or crack citizens on any meaningful level with less than 0.10% of a district’s population to work with. Working from the aforementioned goal of true population equivalence, compactness and minimizing county splits acted as my secondary guiding values. Due to the nature of population densities and county lines, however, compromises were made where appropriate. But by working within a strict population threshold and still achieving strong scores in both compactness and splitting, my map demonstrates just how much better our maps can be.
With regard to outreach, I consulted friends, faculty, and former mappers for feedback on this map. With their invaluable input in mind, I also consulted the previous iterations of Pennsylvania’s state Senate maps. Although these older maps were ruthlessly gerrymandered to varying degrees, they helped illustrate just how laughably inept, or sinister, those involved with official redistricting can be— with long-term ramifications for millions of citizens. And of course at the end of the day, those in charge of redistricting our maps should always put forth their proposed changes for public commentaries and critiques. Because if a college student can draw a statistically superior map to what those in Harrisburg concoct, then why should Pennsylvanians tolerate another decade of gerrymandering?