Tuesday, October 06, 2009

redistricting cometh

All this budget miasma in Harrisburg portends an even more painful political redistricting process coming soon.  If they can't decide on an annual budget (shouldn't the next budget season be starting soon?) then the redistrictring that must happen every decade is going to be a very very painful process

That all comes to mind because the Swing State project has come out with a ranking of congressional districts which have grown or shrunk the most since 2000.  Not surprisingly PA-14 which is the Mike Doyle's district covering the city of Pittsburgh and some environs shows up as the district with the 4th largest decline. They estimate the district has gone from 645,809 people in 2000 to  574,861 in 2008.  A loss of  70,948.   Federal law will require congressional districts to be equalized within a very narrow band of variance once 2010 census data is released.   So PA-14 is going to have to grow geographically no matter what.  That in turn will impact all other local districts even if they were not shrinking themselves... which they are anyway for the most part. 

I do suspect the lengthening recession has shifted a lot of commuting patterns across the nation, but since it started so late in the decade I don't see it changing much for Pennsylvania.  The commonwealth is well within a range to lose 1 congressional district as a result of 2010 reapportionment at the federal level.Some could argue it could be 2 or zero, but both of those would be low probability events IMHO.

The redistricting process is controlled in Harrisburg and compared to 2001 the status quo in Harrisburg is obviously a lot more muddled than ever.  Backthen the Republicans controlled both house and senate and the governorship.  This time the house and senate may be split, we don't know who will be the governor and even the state supreme court has a close split politically.  It all bodes for a similar dysfunction. The stakes in the annual budget pale when compared to the impact of federal redistricting . The stakes are large because redistricting can impact what party gains or loses seats in congress for a decade or more. Read up on the history of Pennsylvania's post 2000 redistricting, or what happened in Texas, to see how much people care.  The power to control the lines can tip the balance in many a congressional election. 

The Federal redistricting is going to be a difficult one just based on sheer geography.  Getting rid of one congressional district means major shifts across the state.  After the 2000 census Pennylvania lost 2 districts which was painful in itself of course, but it meant that some balance in losing districts within the state if you think about the topology of it. 

I have commented in the past on the politics of that process in the past  In particular the extreme geography of PA-18 mostly in Allegheny County's southern suburbs along with parts of Washington and Westmoreland,  which was carved out of that process.  It may be one of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the nation both in shape and intent.  It isn't going to survive the upcoming redistricting looking anything like what it does is a safe bet no matter who controls the process. 

Within the state it gets even tricker. I have written about what the trends look like for the region when it comes to redistricting within the state. Those trends could be updated but are not going to change too much. Population losses for all the reasons discussed coupled with general population increases in certain other parts of the state portend a loss of legislative power in SW Pennsylvania. Basically Allegheny County is on track to lose 2 house seats in the state general assembly.  That would translate to a half of a senate seat.  Since you can't chop those folks in two, it means that the city or county based districts are going to have to consolidate or stretch further into suburbran areas. 

It's mostly a fools game to predict how this all will work out. But if you want to see a district that does not seem likely to survive in a recognizable shape... take a look at senate district 38 currently held by Jim Ferlo.  I have to believe the shape of that district was stretched (tortured?) for decades even as population was shrinking to help keep Len Bodcack (sr. that is) in office.  The result is a current district stretching from the most urban of Lawrenceville out into nearly rural parts of Armstrong County.  Something has to give is just my guess, but you just never know.


Anonymous MH said...

Maybe I'll get to vote in an actual competitive election for something other than Senator or President.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009 10:01:00 PM  

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