Pennsylvania House and Senate Redistribution Maps in 2022: What We Know

Pennsylvania Democrats could see their prospects for taking control of the State House improve dramatically if proposed new maps to redraw legislative constituencies are finalized.

But in the State Senate, the new map would likely help anchor the Republican majority by largely protecting incumbents, creating districts that favor the GOP more than the current map, according to detailed data analysis conducted for The Inquirer by the. non-partisan Princeton Gerrymandering. Project.

Officials proposed the new maps on Thursday, and a five-person committee approved them, kicking off a redistribution process that will shape power for the next decade and already ignite political sparks. The Senate card was passed unanimously, 5-0. The advanced house card 3-2, the Republicans opposing it and the commission chairman appointed by the Supreme Court of the state controlled by the Democrats joining the two Democrats in backing him.

it begins what could be a three-month process until final approval, starting with a 30-day window during which people can file complaints and lawmakers can make changes.

Mark Nordenberg, who chairs the State Legislative Redistribution Commission that drew the maps, stressed the difficulty of finding a compromise due to the inherent political geography of Pennsylvania, in which the southeastern corner of the state – mainly Philadelphia and its suburbs – represents the overwhelming majority of Democratic voters.

“It becomes almost impossible to expand them to have a wider geographic impact,” Nordenberg said in his opening remarks ahead of the vote. “My own experience is that there is nothing easy about drawing these maps.”

The 203-member Chamber, like the 50 members Senate, is currently controlled by the Republicans. Whether that changes in next year’s midterm elections or in the years to come will depend in part on the new maps. The party that controls the legislature, which Republicans have dominated for decades, has the power to shape policy affecting millions of Pennsylvanians.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has used his veto to block Republican legislation for years, but with the prospect of a Republican succeeding him after next year, the focus will be even more on who controls the legislature.

READ MORE: Is Pa. House’s New Card Better For Democrats Or Republicans? We tested it.

With the Senate card enjoying bipartisan support, Republicans quickly called the House proposal “an extreme partisan gerrymander” that could cost them control of the chamber. The current House card favors Republicans and Democrats criticize it for excluding them from power for a decade. The new one would also favor the GOP – but to a much lesser extent, according to the analysis.

JJ Abbott, a Democratic strategist, credited the house’s new card with “undoing the gerrymandering of the past.”

“Clearly this was created in a way that was not intended to prioritize the protection of incumbents and prioritize competitiveness, which is the goal,” he said.

Republican lawmakers called the House’s new card an unfair overcorrection. State House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R., Center) has said he will give Democrats control of the chamber.

“The map before us is nothing less than a danger to our system of government which upsets established norms and the emphasis on local control and local voices that are dear to Pennsylvanians,” Benninghoff said.

In many ways, Pennsylvania’s political geography inherently favors Republicans, with Democratic voters concentrated in fewer districts. But the new House map is actually more Democratic-friendly than the state’s natural political geography, according to the analysis.

To better understand these maps and others, The Inquirer is partnering with the Princeton Gerrymandering Project to analyze the districts. Using the average vote share of the two parties in the 2016 and 2018 presidential elections, and also informed by the 2016 and 2018 US Senate results, the analysis scores and categorizes the underlying partisanship of each of the new districts. proposed.

While there are currently 118 Republican Districts and 85 Democratic Districts in the core partisanship of the current House map, this would increase to 104 Republican Districts and 99 Democratic Districts under the new map.

House Republicans have said the new card will attract 12 GOP holders to districts where they are expected to face other lawmakers in the primaries. It would only pit two Democrats against each other. Four incumbent Democrats could face four incumbent Republicans in combined districts.

Unlike US House races, state legislative candidates must live in the district they seek to represent, meaning the combined incumbents have no choice but to challenge each other in a primary. , move to a new district, or quit.

READ MORE: What to Watch as Pennsylvania Loses Congress Seat: “The Stakes Are Really High”

The Legislative Redistribution Commission is made up of the four leaders of the Democratic and Republican House and Senate caucuses, and Nordenberg, the president appointed by the Supreme Court. The other members are Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland), Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny), Benninghoff and House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D ., Philadelphia).

Benninghoff pointed to several divided cities – Harrisburg, Lancaster, State College, Reading, Allentown and Scranton – as evidence Democrats were trying to distribute Democratic voters into more districts to win more seats.

“The only conclusion we can draw is that they are being divided for purely partisan gain,” he said.

McClinton said the map rightly captures the dramatic demographic and demographic changes since the last census by creating three new house districts in Philadelphia, Lancaster and Montgomery counties.

“It is also in line with the Voting Rights Act, which requires communities of color to have the same opportunity as other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice,” he said. she declared.

Nordenberg said the new House map would create a way for voters to elect a more diverse legislature, with several districts redesigned to encompass populations where more than 50% of residents are black, Latino, or some other non-white group.

READ MORE: Is Pennsylvania’s New Senate Card Better For Democrats Or Republicans? We tested it.

State Senator Vincent Hughes (D., Philadelphia), who heads the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, applauded the creation of a Latin American high density district in Lehigh Valley on the Senate map. The Senate of the 50 Member States does not have Latinos.

“I think this is going in the right direction,” Hughes said of the Senate map, calling it “a lot fairer.”

Christopher Nicholas, a GOP strategist, criticized the House map and questioned the bipartisanship of the committee chairman. “It’s hard to see how [Mark Nordenberg] didn’t have a thumbs up for Democrats, ”Nicholas said in an email.

Abbott, the Democratic strategist, dismissed complaints about the division of cities and counties.

“Pennsylvania is pretty much a divided state,” he said, “so the makeup of the legislature should reflect the state and it looks like that does a lot to try to get more fair and equitable representation. “

The state constitution provides for a 30-day period for the commission to make changes or for “anyone aggrieved by the preliminary plan … to file exceptions with the commission.” The commission then has 30 days to respond to these challenges and make changes. This kicks off an additional 30 days for people to appeal the card directly to the Supreme Court.

That’s a long and potentially problematic trail, given that Pennsylvania has a primary election slated for May 17 and the deadline to file documents to become a candidate is February. The redistribution process started late due to delays in publishing the census data needed to draw the districts.

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