Students at a local university are heading to Harrisburg, receiving honors in a statewide competition.
At one point, Pennsylvania appeared to be one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. So, a non-partisan organization launched a competition asking the public to take a deeper look at the map and draw their own Congressional districts.
Students at Mercyhurst University win big in a statewide competition called ‘Draw the Lines.’
Joe Morris, Mercyhurst Political Science Chair, says, “The idea here is that we will put in the hands of the average citizen the same software that state lawmakers use when they redraw congressional district boundaries.”
One Mercyhurst student taking home first place in the central division. Two others, Sophia Jensen and Logan Ford, claim the runner-up prize in the western district.
Logan Ford, Mercyhurst Student, says, “We focus primarily on not separating communities of interest. So, if you identify as someone from Northwest Pennslyvania or from Erie, we didn’t want you to have the same congressperson as, let’s say, someone from state college or Pittsburgh.”
Students who participated tell us the process was eye-opening and in some ways more challenging than they anticipated.
Jensen says, “There’s a lot of moving parts, a lot of different factors to consider, like population and going beyond that if you’re looking to make districts competitive or keep people in their communities of interest… there’s so many different ways it can go, which we’ve seen through the submissions for the competition.”
From here, the students are moving forward to state competition in Harrisburg, where they’ll be recognized for their achievements in a special ceremony.
Jensen tells us, “As citizens, if you go and you make your voice heard, and you show that you can propose solutions, at some point, they’re gonna have to listen and kind of take that into account.”
Mercyhurst University submitted more maps and had more winners than any other university in the state.