Area Resident Among Winners in Statewide Mapping Contest

fair mapping

CHESTER COUNTY, PA  — Fair Districts PA announced winners in a recent contest inviting Pennsylvania citizens to draw their own state legislative district maps (PA House and Senate), among them included Michael Skros of Chester County.

The Senate map winners were:

  • Gavin Beckett, Dauphin County
  • Ryan Cedzo, Erie County
  • Kyle Hynes, Centre County
  • Michael Skros, Chester County
  • Michael Waxenberg, Pike County

Winning PA House Map entries:

  • Sean Cardinale, Berks County
  • Ryan Cedzo, Erie County
  • Jacob Moser, York County
  • Lexie Rodriguez, Allegheny County
  • Michael Skros, Chester County

The contest is part of ongoing efforts to educate Pennsylvanians on both the importance and the challenges of creating district maps that are fairly drawn. The goal is to reduce the state’s rating as among the most gerrymandered in the nation. An additional goal is to encourage citizens to submit their own maps to legislative committees preparing to draw new Pennsylvania Congressional districts and to the Legislative Redistricting Commission (LRC) charged with updating state House and Senate district maps.

Redistricting, the updating of these maps, is required nationwide every ten years to assure that state and national population, as determined by the latest U.S. census, is equally distributed.  For Pennsylvania that involves 17 congressional districts (reflecting loss of a PA seat due to population changes nationwide), 50 state Senate and 203 House districts.

Contestants were asked to incorporate values expressed in the Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act, a bill introduced in both 2020 and 2021 but not given a vote. The process demonstrated the need to balance multiple constitutional values, including compactness and minimal splits to counties, cities, boroughs and wards. At the same time, the mappers were also asked to pay attention to legal precedent supporting minority representation and the right to free and equal elections, while also observing concerns raised by voters: keeping communities intact, observing geographic boundaries, and attempting to create a map responsive to voters.

“The Fair Districts PA contest had a very short time frame,” said Carol Kuniholm, Chair of Fair Districts PA.  “Contestants had less than three weeks to draw their maps. The fact that citizen mappers could complete their work, without advance notice, in our compressed time frame demonstrates there will be plenty of time for professional mappers to do it properly, even with the delays in receiving U.S. Census data due to Covid.”

During a recent Zoom forum announcing the winners, mapping experts and some winning contestants discussed the challenge of incorporating multiple values. According to Michael Waxenberg, a winner in the state Senate map category, “There is no best map.  It’s a process of trial and error, balancing issues of compactness, fairness, lack of bias, and equal numbers of residents.  Because of that, it is important that those who draw the final maps decide up front what their priorities are.  The clearer they are, the easier it will be to do the work and for Pennsylvanians to study the results and have faith in them.”

Some observed that different approaches may be needed in urban areas with dense populations versus rural sectors of the state. They also noted that the latest census shows Pennsylvania’s population is steadily shifting – from rural to urban areas, and from the Northwest to the center and southeastern part of the state.

Several winning mappers will now work with Fair Districts PA volunteers to create composite PA house and senate maps, incorporating lessons learned from all the winning maps and the competition itself. Fair Districts PA groups will convene local and regional community mapping conversations to provide further feedback on proposed composite maps. Finalized maps will be submitted to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission as testimony sometime later this fall. Learn more about mapping meetings and other ways to be involved in the redistricting process at https://www.fairdistrictspa.com/.

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