Saturday, November 11, 2006

Redistricting PA Congressional Districts

Friday's Wall Street Journal has an excellent article on Pennsylvania congressional districts, "Redistricting: Home to Roost," by Jeanne Cummings. It discusses the way Republicans used redistricting in 2000 to try to maximize their hold on the state delegations.

Note this paragraph:

So Mr. DeLay and House Speaker Dennis Hastert turned to their allies in the statehouses to redraw congressional disrict boundaries to erase Democratic seats and give Republicans new ones. "We wish to encourage you in these efforts, as they play a crucial role in maintaining a Reublican majority," the two leaders wrote in a letter to Pennsylvania lawmakers.

The article focuses on the 6th congressional distrct, which was drawn specifically to be a Republican stronghold.

It also touches on the role of organized labor. Note: "They began to put together a pattern: Republican-held House seats where Democrat John Kerry narrowly won or lost also included high concentrations of union members."

One parting comment:

"If Republicans had been a little less aggressive, they could have won several of those seats. If they gave the Democrats one more seat, they could have shored up by several percentage points the other seats," says Nathaniel Persily, a politcal scientist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Let's hope whoever is in control in 2010 remembers these lessons.


phillydem said...

I don't about "several" CDs, but redistricting surely cost the GOP the 8th. Patrick Murphy's win was attributable to the margin he took out of the sliver of Montgomery county since the Bucks and Phila votes were a wash.

Nothing could have saved Weldon in the 7th once the news of the federal investigation broke.

Anonymous said...

Here's what could've happened if the greedy Republicans hadn't tried to make Hoeffel's seat competitive:

The 13th district could have been packed with Democrats, included Lower/Upper Merion, Willow Grove, and parts of the real-life 1st and 2nd districts in Northeast Philly. The 13th district could have given up some of outer Montco to the 6th and 8th districts, making those safer for Gerlach and Fitzpatrick. The 1st and 2nd districts could have shifted a little more into the more Democratic parts of Delco, and the 7th could have had some rural territory appended to it, making the district too Republican for Weldon to attract serious opposition like Adm. Sestak in the first place. Even if the Democrat eked out a win with the scandal, that Democrat would be a likely one-termer.

Republicans got greedy and screwed themselves out of two districts, and they would have lost the third if Lois Murphy had run a decent campaign on the air.

If the Democrats control the next redistricting, they may have to overreach for 5-0 in the Philly area to preserve all their incumbents, since the Philly area will lose one seat. If that happens, we could see a mid-decade catastrophe of our own.

phillydem said...

I don't really see how Phila loses 1 seat since the population has stabilized. Whatever seat we lose will come out of western PA, IMO, that's where the population loss is.

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right. I hadn't looked at the population projections in a while and mis-remembered them.

Right now, Philadelphia proper has about 2.35 seats and the four counties of Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Bucks have about 5.29. Roughly speaking, those correspond to the 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th, 13th, and some of the 6th and 15th.

If Pennsylvania loses one seat, Philadelphia proper would lose about 0.2 seats and the four above counties would lose about 0.27.

If Pennsylvania loses two seats, Philadelphia proper would lose about 0.32 seat, and the four above counties would lose about 0.55.

If Gerlach holds on until the next redistricting (and if the Dems control redistricting), the Democrats could reasonably give Gerlach a very safe seat and then reach for five Democratic seats. If a Democrat wins in the sixth, it'll be really hard to save all six Dem incumbents. Maybe the 6th could shift to include all of Reading. In any event, I'd almost rather have 4 safe Democratic seats and one safe Republican than 2 safe Democrats and 3 vulnerable Democrats. An additional difficulty to pro-Democratic redistricting is that two districts have to remain majority-minority.

If the Republicans control redistricting, they should put all of Philadelphia and 700,000 people worth of Democratic inner suburbs into three safe Democratic districts.

phillydem said...

I understand that in the 6th, the city of Reading is split into 3 different CDs. If Reading were reunified in the 6th, I think that alone would enable Dems to win that CD.

If I were doing Dem redistricting, I think I'd put as many Republicans as possible in the 16th and 19th and just write them off with all due respect to Bruce Beardsley and the LCDC who are really working their tails off out there.

The other thing that bothers me is the disparity in the number of voters/CD nationally. Why should states like NY and PA be left with
a higher person/CD count then states
like AZ or ID? Why should we have to "lose" seats just because a state with a smaller population than one of our CD "rates" another seat?

Anonymous said...

The City of Reading actually is split between the 6th and 16th. The 17th goes right up to the city limits, but only includes suburbs. If we could shift the 6th to include all of Reading (without screwing over Holden in the 17th), I'm all for that. I hope the next challenger in the 6th is from the Reading area so that that idea works.

The highest number of people per CD is in MT, with 905,316. The lowest number of people per CD is in WY, with 495,304.

Nationwide, the number is 646,952 people per seat, which is pretty close to PA's 647,404. In fact, any apportionment methed that I've heard of would have given PA 19 seats in 2000. (Indeed, all the large states are close to the national average---it's the small states that get severely over- and under-represented.)

The states that you mentioned (midsized AZ, small ID, large NY, and large PA) are actually not very over- or under-represented, and Wyoming is the only one-seat state that's substantially over-represented. But consider RI, which is indeed over-represented, at 524,831 people per seat and MT, which is indeed under-represented. As it stands now, MT's district is 72.50% larger than RI's. If RI gave one of its seats to MT, RI's district would be 131.89% larger than MT's.

Or suppose CA (the state that would be affected the least by the loss of a seat) gave a seat to poor under-represented Montana. As it stands now, MT's district is 41.41% larger than CA's. If CA gave one of its seats to MT, CA's districts would be 44.15% larger than MT's.

That's the justification for the method of equal proportions (also known as the Hill method): It minimizes the ratios between district sizes of pairs of states. I slightly prefer a related method called the Webster or "major fractions" method, but equal proportions isn't bad. (In fact, the Webster method would have given exactly the same results in 2000.)

Really, unless the House of Representatives dramatically increases its size (which I think is a great idea for this and several other reasons), some states are going to have much larger districts than others.

phillydem said...

I bow to your superior knowledge of redistricting. :)

That said, if PA's population doesn't change, but another state's grows and they rate another seat, why, then do we, say, have to "lose" a seat (understanding that redistricting is a zero sum game with a fixed 435 reps)?

I think Pennsylvania's population has been pretty stable around 10-12M, yet we continue to "lose" seats. It seems like there should be a better way.

Anonymous said...

I agree. A better way would be to increase the size of the House automatically each decade slightly more than population growth. Also, DC should have representation on the same basis as the states.

phillydem said...

I don't know, I think that would just make the house far too unwieldy - sort of like our dear state legislature. :)

Anonymous said...

Maybe so, but you either have expansion in the House, or you have states with stable (or even increasing) populations like Pennsylvania losing seats.

Also, it's harder to gerrymander smaller districts for partisan advantage (although this benefit only kicks in for districts that are roughly 60,000 or smaller), field campaigns and retail politics go further in smaller districts (see: Anne Dicker), and TV ad dollars don't go as far in smaller districts.

Among my more unusual opinions is that the state should have a unicameral legislature like Nebraska's. It's always struck me that the lege isn't unwieldy because the House is too big, but because it's too hard to get bills through both houses. As one example, Rendell's property tax reform finally was clear to pass the Senate, but the House Republicans blocked it. That allows the Senate Republicans to brag on their bipartisanship while nothing actually gets done.

Bicameralism is great at the federal level, where a little creakiness in the wheels of government is a good thing, and where there are principled reasons for balancing the interests of both citizens and states; but I don't see the point at the state level.

AboveAvgJane said...

Wow! These are some smart comments. I'm impressed.