State College produces two winners of statewide redistricting contest

The winning youth division Pennsylvania Congressional district map designed by State High sophomore Kyle Hynes.
The winning youth division Pennsylvania Congressional district map designed by State High sophomore Kyle Hynes. Draw the Lines PA

A State College Area High School sophomore took first place in a statewide contest asking participants to redraw the Pennsylvania state congressional map.

Kyle Hynes, 15, won the youth division for Draw the Lines PA’s congressional map contest. Draw the Lines PA is a nonpartisan, statewide “civic education and engagement initiative” made up of three regional steering committees, according to the organization’s website.

In his personal statement for the winning map, Hynes said he prioritized “competitiveness” in order to give the highest amount of citizens a say in their Congressional representation. Using census data, mapping software and the Voting Rights Act, Hynes redrew Congressional boundaries to make 14 of 18 districts competitive.

“(The map) will also be heavily responsive to shifts in the electoral climate,” he wrote. “It gives more people more of a say in elected officials, and it will make 78 percent of our members of Congress truly fight for their seats.”

Judges were very impressed with Hynes’ map, writing that he paid special attention to complying with the Voting Rights Act and had districts extend out from cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, which have some heavy party and racial concentrations.

“It is astounding that Kyle, a Centre County high school student working independently, was able to create 14 competitive legislative districts, get a high compactness score — and the districts look so reasonable!” judges wrote in their statement.

But Hynes wasn’t the only winner from State College. The students of Penn State Professor Chris Fowler’s Geography 421 class won with their map in the Higher Education division.

The class, made up of 17 Penn State students under the direction of Fowler, created a survey and website to figure out what values Pennsylvania residents wanted reflected their Congressional map.

In a video essay, members of the class laid out their survey and map design process. With the survey, Penn State student Jake Kaminski said, “we found that the whole process ... it was still tough but it was more impactful.”

The funniest part of the project, he said, was surveying people at Penn State tailgates during home football games — “making sure it was early in the morning before things got a little rowdy.”

“This winning entry demonstrates a top-notch collaborative and grassroots process, combined with a very decent map,” wrote judges.

Visit drawthelinespa.org/about-us/fall-2018-contest-winners for a full list of winners from the contest.

Sarah Paez covers Centre County communities, government and town and gown relations for the Centre Daily Times. She studied English and Spanish at Cornell University and grew up outside of Washington, D.C.