How Does the Census Impact PA Representation?

The Pennsylvania Legislature is in the process of redrawing the commonwealth’s U.S. Congress, State House, and State Senate districts. The 2020 Census data shows that Pennsylvania’s population decreased slightly since 2010, so it’ll be losing one congressional seat. Some areas, however, have gained population over the 10 years, primarily in the southeast part of the State. (Click here for an analysis: https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2021/08/pa-redistricting-2020-census-data-takeaways/?mc_cid=d7c194d482&mc_eid=4c0ec5aee7) What does that mean for Democrats? Given that we have a Republican-controlled legislature with a Democratic Governor, it’s hard to say. From what I can tell, the Republicans are pushing a redistricting plan that prohibits the splitting of counties and municipalities. They seem to be touting their approach as the “most transparent” and least confusing for the voter. However, some argue that this approach will favor Republicans for years to come.


It’s a fact that Democratic voters in Pennsylvania are bunched in the major metropolitan areas around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. These happen to be the most urban areas with the largest and most diverse populations, and, most importantly for redistricting, the areas where there has been the largest population growth since the last Census. Democrats hold huge majorities in many of these areas, while Republicans hold slight majorities in more areas throughout the State. Since you only need one more vote than your opponent to win in a legislative district, it doesn’t help Democrats to keep municipalities in the most populous and diverse areas entirely whole. (For a discussion of this, go to this link: https://whyy.org/articles/will-this-round-of-pa-redistricting-be-another-all-out-war-its-all-in-the-details/?mc_cid=7c9617dd73&mc_eid=4c0ec5aee7 ).

The state’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission--a panel of two Democrats, two Republicans and an appointed, tie-breaking chair--will have the final say over the legislative maps, no doubt dealing with many more issues than I have mentioned (or understand). What I do know is that it’s important to keep an eye on what the Republicans propose. The last time around, their highly gerrymandered congressional map was thrown out by the state Supreme Court, finding it unfairly benefited Republicans. I’m wary that House Republicans are trying to shape the debate by creating a website and holding a series of public hearings - without participation from House Democrats (https://whyy.org/articles/pa-house-republicans-commit-to-hearings-increased-transparency-in-redistricting-process/ ). Democratic voters need to voice their concerns at these public hearings and on whatever outlets we can.


Additional resources:

· https://www.fairdistrictspa.com/

· https://seventy.org/issues/redistricting

· https://www.redistricting.state.pa.us/