Thursday, April 12, 2012

The incredibly disappearing senate district

So a bit of mapping sleight of hand happened today that may have only been noticed by the political junkies, but will impact a lot of folks. 

Most know the decennial census requires redistricting of political districts across the nation.  The result for the relatively shrinking southwestern Pennsylvania was that one state senate district had to be moved to the faster growing northeastern part of the state. In the first redistricting plan the senate district to be lost locally was senate district 45 which was the district with the least senior member.  Senator Jim Brewster had only taken office in 2010 when the former incubent Sean Logan moved on.

Then the state supreme court came in and ruled that for various cartographic reasons the plan was not allowable.  The nominal reason given by the court was that too many municipalities were broken up between municipalities.  It was a big surprise when the court ruled the way it did and talk is generally that the real reason was that the court system was upset over budget cuts imposed on them.  Hold that thought.

So the state's redistricting commission redid the districts earlier today.  All of a sudden senate district 45 was 'saved' (i.e. kept in SW Pennsylvania and presumebly its current incumbent) and the district to be moved to the other side of the state became senate district 40 whose incumbent Jane Orie is likely about to resign given a criminal conviction that has been in the news.  So clearly the district will soon be represented by the new newest member which will no longer be Jim Brewster.

By the way.. the new plan which completely changed the senate redistricting was introduced by  Republican Stephen J. McEwen Jr., president judge emeritus of the state Superior Court who was appointed to the redistricting commission by the state supreme court in the first place. Got all that? Lesson learned: maybe we should pay attention in these state judicial races that nobody really notices.

How did they pull off the cartography? How do you make a senate district disappear? Senate district 40 pretty much defined the North Hills.  As best I can show it, here is what the changes wrought.

Original Redisticting Plan and Senate District 40



and the revised residistricting plan with the former district 40 highlighted


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