Sunday, January 07, 2018

2020 Pennsylvania Redistricting - the other story

Just before the end of the year the Census gnomes released the latest state population estimates for 2017. One news cycle that generated was the latest projections for what states will win and what states will lose congressional districts after the 2020 Census. In short Pennsylvania is pretty solidly in a range where it will lose one congressional district after the next reapportionment. That projection is part and parcel with the bigger story with what will happen with gerrymandering given litigation before the US supreme court  and the state supreme court as well right now.

What gets lost in the noise is what about what is going to happen in Harrisburg? The Pennsylvania General Assembly has 203 districts and the state senate is made up of 50 districts. Population change will impact the map of each of those districts just as they impact congressional districts.  So what are we looking at with what we see so far?

We only have 2016 estimates at the county level so far, but we can use the trends thus far this decade to come up with a decent guess for what areas within the state will wind up with greater representation, and which one will wind up with less. Here is the summary I am seeing if you just project out population changes April 2010-July 2016 through to April 2020 (the census reference month).

The punchline looks like the changes resulting from the 2020 Census will be nowhere near as dramatic as what happened after the 2010 Census. No one count in the region other than Westmoreland is expected to lose much more than 1/10th of a general assembly district.

For the Pittsburgh region, that is a big difference compared with what happened after the 2010 Census. You can see how big a change there as was locally in some old posts here. Basically Allegheny County saw a big drop in its representation in Harrisburg, losing closer to two whole general assembly districts, with a proportional loss among senate districts.Much different to be looking at losing maybe 1/10th of a district.  In a sense the story mostly is a non-story for the county, and much of the region, but that is important unto itself.

Of course, all of this is talking top line population changes, and the specific district maps that come out of the redistricting process could implement significant changes to the geography of all districts, but on average the result will not be as draconian for Allegheny County as it was in most previous scales. All of which is based on projecting trends through the decade thus far. If those trends have significant shifts in the next few years, the results will differ, but hard to believe they will shift much.  The bigger punchline I see is that on the other side of the state the trends are leading to Philadelphia (as in Philadelphia proper, the city/county) could gain almost a whole general assembly district after 2020 Redistricting. If that holds up it would be the only gain in Philadelphia's representation in Harrisburg in seven decades. An interesting shift in Pennsylvania population dynamics for sure. So for my peeps on the other side of the state, that may be something to follow up on.