Sunday, December 19, 2010

Musical Chairs to Come

On Tuesday the very first data from the 2010 Census will be reported.  All it will be is the total population count for each state.  This will tell us officially what we already know that Pennsylvania will lose one seat in congress resulting from the reapportionment to come.  It is very unlikely we will lose two seats as we did a decade ago after the 2000 census.  It is pretty unlikely that Pennsylvania stay even.  The recession probably blunted the growth in a lot of other states which would have aided Pennsylvania at the margin, but it didn't start soon enough or have enough of an impact in order to actually save the seat for us. At least that is the general consensus and if otherwise will be a big story.

Uber Census geeks will point out that conducting the decennial census is literally the only thing written into the Constitution that the executive branch of the US federal govt is mandated to do. The purpose is entirely to produce the data that will come out on Tuesday.  Everything else is sort of an add on.  So Tuesday's announcement could mean the entire federal government could immediately go into hibernation for most of the next decade. If you are the uber-Libertarian that is.  I suspect they will remain open, with or without a continuing resolution of course.  I was actually a federal employee one of few recent times the federal government shut down over a budget crisis, but it was the Columbus Day weekend of 1990.  If the federal government shuts down on a federal holiday, does it really shut down? Ironically I was a federal budget analyst at the time.

Back to Pennsylvania though. Spatially, losing one seat may cause even more redistricting turmoil than losing just one.  Last time, with centers of population loss in Piittsburgh and Philly you had a certain amount of geographic balance across the state which  circumscribed the changes as borders were redrawn.   This time it does not matter where the seat is 'lost' from.  The secondary impacts will significantly alter borders all the way across the state to define congressional districts with equal populations.

Then we will have fun redistricting all of the state legislature, both house and senate...  then local things like city and county council districts here.  Not to mention school board districts.  I guess there is no hope of making sense of the voting districts themselves, but we will keep plugging away at that.  When we eventually have a district that nobody shows up at to vote for a given election then I figure something has to give.

Anyway, more census fun on reapportionment. 


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