Department of Public Policy (DPP) student Ryan Scala decided to pursue a Master of Public Policy (MPP) after noticing that the public often consumed political content that was not objective. He found that many organizations had bias and that they produced opinionated or misleading commentary. Ryan wants to utilize his DPP skillsets to objectively analyze information, and is currently working with the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.
The goal of the Project is to create a site that gives district maps a “fairness letter grade” that can be used by legislatures for 2021 and 2022 redistricting. Every ten years, states use new Census data to redraw congressional and state legislative districts. While some states have checks in place to prevent overly partisan maps, others do not. This can result in “gerrymandered” maps that disproportionately favor the party in power and suppress the influence of certain voters. With the midterm elections approaching in 2022, redistricting could have a significant impact on whether Democrats or Republicans control the House of Representatives and many state legislatures.
Scala first got involved with the project when he entered a map contest put on by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. While he did not win, the project was impressed with his entry and invited him to join their team of 75 mappers. A large number of maps are required for the site’s algorithm to work and soon these maps will be distributed to other state organizations with similar goals to be used as testimony once public comment is open in state legislatures. As part of this project, Scala not only draws district maps, but also has to provide an explanation as to why the map is drawn the way it is. He draws upon his experience in the DPP to write concise descriptions void of flowery language that get directly to the point. Scala previously worked in the Connecticut state legislature and knows how important concise writing is when trying to influence policy.
After graduation, Scala sees himself doing work around objective political analysis. Whether that is working with a politician, an organization, or doing election analysis on television, Scala is first and foremost concerned with providing the public with accurate political information. The DPP is delighted that Scala can shed some light on a topic as important as redistricting and the influence it can have on our elections.