Redistricting is the process of redrawing the maps for legislative and congressional voting districts to reflect population changes. It is required by law every 10 years after the U.S. census.
Gerrymandering is the manipulation of district lines to provide an advantage to a party or person.
Recently, as debate intensifies, Pennsylvania Republican legislators have been asserting that the preliminary state House and Senate maps approved by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission are diluting the voice of rural Pennsylvanians by taking districts from rural areas and giving them to urban areas.
As one example, they use percentage growth to argue that Cumberland County, where the population has grown 10% over the past decade, should gain a seat instead of Philadelphia, with 5% growth. However, 10% of Cumberland’s population is 22,000 people (not nearly enough to populate a state House district). And 5% of Philadelphia’s population is 85,000, more than enough to create a state House district.
Kyle Kopko, executive director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, presented testimony to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission showing that Pennsylvania’s rural population has decreased and the growth has occurred in the southeastern part of the state — in urban areas and their immediately surrounding ring municipalities.
This cycle, each state House district should have a target population as close as possible to 64,000 Pennsylvanians (the state population divided by 203 districts). Legislative Reapportionment Commission chair Mark Nordenberg noted that, in the last 10 years, the population of southeastern Pennsylvania increased by 344,075 people, while the combined population of all the rest of the state declined by 43,754.
With the rural-to-urban population shift statewide, the proposed state House map isn’t gerrymandering — it is math.
I encourage everyone to read Nordenberg’s recent remarks for a better understanding of why and how the preliminary maps were drawn (lanc.news/Nordenberg). He spells out the rules and laws the Legislative Reapportionment Commission must follow, the actions taken and why. In my view, it’s a far better explanation of our latest redistricting process than the misinformation that is coming from some Republican legislators.