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Credit: Tyler Kliem

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court selected a new congressional map on Wednesday that will reshape statewide and national politics for the next decade after a period of standstill.

On Feb. 23, by a 4-3 decision, the court chose a map submitted by a group of citizens and proposed by the Democratic plaintiffs that used the "least-change" approach to maintain the same general representation as the previous map. 

Penn faculty and political club leaders on campus discussed the importance of the process and what needs to be addressed moving forward. College senior and former Penn Democrats political director Michael Nevett said that ensuring equitable representation remains the most pressing issue. 

“The most important thing is to have a map that is fair and reflects changes in population so everyone has equal representation," Nevett said. 

Districts are redrawn every ten years based on the results of the United States Census. Since Pennsylvania lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 census — going from 18 to 17 districts — an entirely new congressional map had to be drawn

This new map has six Democratic-leaning districts, eight Republican-leaning districts, and three highly competitive districts, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight.

Nevett said this change in the number of districts and the initial delay in the release of demographic data resulted in a longer redistricting process. 

Along with the announcement of the new congressional map, the state Supreme Court also imposed a new election calendar for the May 17 primary. The primary date will stay unchanged, but the deadlines for candidates to file paperwork to secure a spot on the ballot have been pushed back. 

Fourteen different congressional maps were submitted to the Commonwealth Court by groups of citizens, lawmakers, and even a group of mathematicians, which included Penn mathematics professor Philip Gressman

The final map took longer than expected to be agreed upon because the traditional process fell through when the Republican-controlled legislature could not reach an agreement with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, so the state Supreme Court then had to rule on which map should be chosen.

It is difficult for the court to decide on these maps because they need to ensure that all votes carry the same weight and that populations are split up relatively evenly, College senior and Penn Leads the Vote Co-Director Eva Gonzalez said. 

“Depending on what the districts look like, it can change the weight of a vote,” Gonzalez said. “When districts are gerrymandered, it can be done in a way to ensure victory for one political party or the other, and, in doing so, it dilutes the power of certain peoples’ voices and certain peoples’ votes.”

Wharton first-year and co-political director of College Republicans Joshua Frazier said that the issue of gerrymandering is a "problem across the board," and he would not put the blame of this on Democrats or Republicans.

"There's always going to be one side who's going to try to take advantage of their seat in power, and there's always going to be one side with complaints, whether justified or not, that their voice is being underrepresented," Frazier said.