Originally, I knew I wanted to an honors thesis—I just wasn’t sure what on. I knew that I wanted to do it on something I was passionate about and I knew it had to be on a political issue. I spent the spring semester of my junior year in Washington, D.C. working for the office of Senator Bob Casey where I was exposed to the news daily. This further influenced my need to have a political influence in my thesis. I also wanted to have something that would be relevant to Pennsylvania. At my internship, learning about the different state issues made me more knowledgeable and more interested in the political environment in Pennsylvania.
Even so, I was uncertain on the topic. Because of this and the honors thesis deadline approaching, I met with Dr. Jay Devine and had an honest and open discussion with what I was interested in, my future plans, and what I wanted to accomplish with my thesis. I brought up two issues that I was very passionate about: immigration and the application of the U.S. Constitution. While the former was interesting to me, I did not want to create a research project that was too personal to me, as I felt that it might generate more emotions than research. In the scope of my latter interests, Dr. Devine suggested the redistricting case going to the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As I was already in a Pennsylvania government office, I had heard of the issue and followed it closely. After the court handed down the ruling and gave the state a period of time to establish fair districts under the condition that should the state not enact new lines. Because Pennsylvania officials did not change the district lines within the deadline, the Supreme Court established them for the state with the help of redistricting experts. This was interesting to me as that had never happened before and was the effect of the state attempting to create a timely and effective solution for its voters.
I continued to follow the Supreme Court cases and found out that a redistricting case from Texas, Abbott v. Perez, was on this year’s docket. This case was particularly different because it focused on race rather than partisanship. I was confused as to why the Supreme Court chose to take this case but did follow through with the case in Pennsylvania. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 protects against racial discrimination but does not specifically protect discrimination against minority parties. This difference helped me figure out what I wanted to research. It also helped that both of these places take part in areas that I have lived and continue to call home. Being able to research and contribute to these two places makes me more motivated to continue this process and see this research through.