The Shippensburg University Pennsylvania Election Research (S.U.P.E.R.) Map launch party took place on Wednesday, Oct. 12, in McFeely’s Cafe. A class of Wood Honors College students spent the first eight weeks of the semester compiling credited voter data from each county, entering it all into their database, creating the Geographic Information System (GIS) and reaching out to reporters to introduce the S.U.P.E.R. Map to them.
Alison Dagnes, an SU political science professor, came up with the idea for the map over the summer. According to Dagnes, she was approached by a reporter from The Philadelphia Inquirer who asked what she wanted to see in the 2022 mid-term election coverage. She explained to the reporter that she wanted a map with which people would be able to see a variety of data for each county of the state. The reporter had explained to her that a map with all of the requirements she had outlined did not exist. Shortly after, Dagnes realized that she might be able to create the system that she described with the students of the honors college.
“It was unforeseen that I had really no idea what I was doing and absolutely no skills with which to do it,” Dagnes said. “I thought that it was going to be a lot easier than it was.”
Once it became clear that she could not figure it all out on her own, she reached out to Jan Smith, a retired SU geography professor, to help with the GIS.
“I really thought I could just figure it out — that she [Smith] could give me a 10 point ‘here you need to do x, y, z’ and it was so much more complicated than that, and these guys [students] figured it out. It was terrific,” Dagnes explained.
With the help of Smith, students were able to use raw data to produce the S.U.P.E.R. Map. “It took a lot of hard work to familiarize ourselves with the [GIS] software,” Wood Honors College student Hannah Moats said. “It was confusing, but fun and rewarding.”
The class that worked on the S.U.P.E.R. Map was split into three main groups — the research team, the public relations team and the graphic design team. Jenna Cornell, a member of the PR team, said that each team “put long and tireless effort into the work.”
At the launch party, Cornell explained to the audience that the research team spent hours sifting through all the sources to find verified election voting data. The graphic design team then had to figure out how to take all of the data to make the map appealing, easy to read and easy to navigate.
At the same time, the PR team spent the same long hours finding contacts to reach out to at news sources across the state. The team also prepared personalized emails for each contact, leaving emails open for further conversation. At the time of this publication, that work is still ongoing.
Piper Kull, another member of the PR team, spoke at the launch party to explain the importance of the S.U.P.E.R. Map. She explained that the research largely came from the Pennsylvania Department of State to provide factual data about voters in past elections.
“Partisan politics have caused a divide and distrust in voting statistics. With changes in voting practices come criticisms. As election results are increasingly disputed, our map delivers official data from all counties in Pennsylvania in an effort to provide fact-based information,” Kull explained. “The Honors College has very talented students and this is a showcase of our skills. It is our hope that this research will bring light to the Honors College and its students at Shippensburg.”
The S.U.P.E.R. Map has many maps that show different elections and their data. There is a general map that shows how many people are registered to vote and to which party they are registered.
“It was definitely a lot of work but we have something substantial to show for it,” said Ethan Rosenberry, a member of the graphic design team. Rosenberry presented the map and its features at the launch party.
Each county in Pennsylvania can be clicked on and expanded data will appear. Election to election percentage differences are also shown on each map. Dagnes explained at the launch party that these changes align with what is occurring on a national scale.
Other maps included in the S.U.P.E.R. Map track voter data for senate, governor and presidential elections. Each of these three pages of the map include summaries of voting statistics as well as facts about the election years. Each map is also fitted with an overlay to slide across the map to show the differences from race to race.
Honors College students also included a page that shows fundraising statistics for each party so that the public can see what is raised and used yearly in the state of Pennsylvania.
“This [the S.U.P.E.R. Map] is of utmost importance to refute the idea that the elections have been stolen — using raw data to show our democracy is sound,” Cornell said.
This importance was emphasized throughout the S.U.P.E.R. Map launch. Dagnes explained that all of the numbers and percentages follow a similar trend and that voting data doubt can be refuted with certified research.
“They [students] can do anything,” Dagnes said. “The biggest takeaway, period, is that Shippensburg University is fantastic and nobody should underestimate us. Most importantly, we shouldn’t underestimate ourselves — we’re great.”
Anyone interested in accessing the S.U.P.E.R. Map may direct questions to SUPER@ship.edu. The Honors class is currently working on creating a URL to share the map with the public.