Fighting to Make Our Votes Count

Carol Kuniholm addressing the press at the Pennsylvania Capitol, with supporters of redistricting reform behind her.

Now that the Pennsylvania General Assembly has returned from summer recess, advocacy groups, like Fair Districts PA and March on Harrisburg, are intensifying their fight for redistricting reform. Explaining the importance of their mission, Carol Kuniholm, chair of Fair Districts PA, said at a recent press conference in Harrisburg:

For the first time in generations, many of our fellow citizens are questioning the underlying premises of democracy itself. … We feel our votes no longer count and our voices are no longer heard. When we look for causes, we see our gerrymandered districts and our lack of choice at the polls.

[Read more…]

Prisoners Still to be Counted as State Residents

Prison based Gerrymandering.

Prison-Based Gerrymandering.

Census Bureau Proposed Prisoner Residence Rules Inflate Power of Some States

by Aleks Kajstura

The U.S. Census Bureau released its proposed 2020 Census ‘residence rules’ that ignore overwhelming public input supporting a change in how incarcerated persons are counted in the Census. The Bureau announced it is leaving in place the inaccurate and outdated practice of counting incarcerated persons as “residents” of the prison location instead of their home communities. Interested stakeholders have until September 1 to submit comments before this proposal becomes final. [Read more…]

Jewish Population by Congressional District

Joshua Comenetz has broken down the American Jewish population by Congressional district.

Here are the local numbers:

District Representative Jews %
PA1 Robert Brady (D) 17,000 2.41%
PA2 Chaka Fattah (D) 36,000 5.10%
PA6 Jim Gerlach (R) 19,000 2.69%
PA7 Pat Meehan 36,000 5.10%
PA8 Mike Fitzpatrick (R) 44,000 6.24%
PA13 Allyson Schwartz (D) 63,000 8.93%
NJ1 Robert Andrews (D) 35,000 4.78%
DE John C. Carney, Jr. 15,100 1.68%

The estimate of the Jewish population in all Congressional Districts is 6,735,830, approximately 2.18% of the total U.S. population. This estimate is consistent with the 6.7 million Jewish persons reported in the 2013 Pew Research Center Portrait of Jewish Americans….

The American Jewish population is simultaneously more densely clustered geographically than the overall American population and very geographically diverse — at least a few Jews live in every one of the 436 CDs. Half of all American Jews live in just 37 CDs, and 93 CDs contain three-quarters of all Jews. In contrast, the 266 districts with the fewest Jews collectively have only 10% of the Jewish population. The most-Jewish district, New York’s 10th, has as many Jews (197,000) as the 170 least-Jewish CDs combined.

There are 13 CDs with 100,000 or more Jews, nine in New York and two each in California and Florida — the three states with the highest total Jewish populations. In general, the most-Jewish CDs are in the northeastern states, California, Florida, and a few other large urban areas such as Chicago and Atlanta. The least-Jewish CDs are mostly in the rural parts of southern states.

Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District has the most Jews in the state and is ranked 24th nationally while the 3rd, 5th and 9th District have only 1000 Jews.

Where is the Jewish vote the most decisive?

There are 27 Congressional Districts in which the Jewish population exceeded the margin of victory in the 2012 Congressional election. Heading the list is:

  • Illinois’ 10th Congressional District whose 76,500 Jews (10.73% of the population) is about 23 times the 3,326 vote margin by which Democratic challenger Brad Schneider defeated Republican incumbent Robert Dold.
  • Florida’s 32th Congressional District whose 32,000 Jews (4.60% of the population) is about 17 times the 1,904 vote margin by which Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy defeated Republican incumbent Allen West.
  • New York’s 11th Congressional District whose 129,000 Jews (17.97% of the population) is about 12 times the 10,688 vote margin by which Republican incumbent Michael Grimm defeated Democratic challenger Mark Murphy.

Runners up are NY-9 (6.95x), AZ-2 (6.93x), MA-6 (6.12x), NY-18 (5.19x), CA-52 (5.08x), NY-3 (3.45x), CT-5 (3.35x), CO-6 (3.29x), UT-4 (3.26x), CA-26 (3.03x), NY-1 (2.95x), FL-22 (2.73x), NY-6 (2.03x) and IL-13 (2.00x).

Political Power-Play in Harrisburg


— Barry Kauffman, Common Cause PA

The biggest political power-play of the decade is unfolding right now in Harrisburg — and it is, perhaps, the most self-serving and least transparent process of state government. It is known as reapportionment or redistricting.

Every ten years, following the census, each state is required to reconfigure the lines for its congressional and legislative districts, to ensure that everyone has equal representation. For its legislative districts, Pennsylvania establishes a five-person Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC), comprised of the top Republicans and Democrats in the state House and Senate, plus a fifth person who serves as chairman. The Pennsylvania State Constitution directs the LRC to ensure that each district has approximately the same number of residents, is compact and contiguous, and keeps counties, cities, towns, boroughs, townships and wards intact unless a split is “absolutely necessary”. This is supposed to lead to elections that are fair and competitive.

The reality, however, is much different. Looking at the proposed legislative maps is like a game of “name-that-shape.” Our redistricting system has been contorted into an incumbency protection game that virtually guarantees one party control of each district and the re-election of incumbents. This defies intentions of representative democracy in which elections are to be the citizens’ tool to hold power accountable. By “gerrymandering” legislative districts into bizarre shapes, legislators now cherry-pick their voters instead of voters picking their legislators.

The 2011 poster child for the abuse of voters’ rights to fair elections is manifested in central Pennsylvania’s 15th Senatorial district shown above. Currently, the district encompasses Harrisburg and its suburbs east of the Susquehanna River, plus a small adjacent section of York County. But in an attempt to protect an embattled incumbent Senator, the LRC created a new district that eliminates troublesome Harrisburg constituents. So instead of being contained almost entirely in a compact Dauphin County region, the new 15th district snakes through Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York and Adams counties creating a 150 mile horseshoe that dismantles any sense of community. The plan has been opposed by public officials throughout the five-county gerrymander.

The five-members of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission may have a greater impact on the outcome of Pennsylvania’s elections over the next decade than all of the state’s voters combined, because when they “gerry-rig” district borders, they essentially predetermine the probable outcome of most legislative elections for the coming decade.

However, the system can work the way the Constitution intends. One enterprising citizen has proven it (and did so working without the millions of dollars, expensive computer software and dozens of staff available to Pennsylvania’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission). Amanda Hoft developed an alternative plan which bests the LRC’s Preliminary Plan by strictly adhering to the constitutionally mandated standards. While one legislative leader proudly crowed that the LRC’s plan for the House splintered only 110 municipalities this year, as opposed to 121 in 2001, the Hoft’s plan broke up only 27 municipalities. On the Senate map, she split only 4 municipalities instead of the 27 fractured in the official plan. By eliminating all political criteria that are intended to build party advantage and safe seats for incumbents, she instead built districts to protect citizens’ interests in competitive elections and government accountability.

Links:

  • Amanda Holt’s oral testimony: transcript and video.
  • Amanda Holt’s Full testimony including maps & illustrations. (Large file may take a couple of minutes to load.)
  • Holt website.
  • Anyone who wishes to show support of Amanda Holt’s proposal may let the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission know through their contact page.

More after the jump.

The documentary film Gerrymandering, opens with the quote from Thomas Pynchon;

“Nothing will create bad history more directly nor more brutally than drawing a line.”

Redistricting is all about drawing lines – lines that can empower citizens and communities, or lines that disable competitive elections and vitiate the will of the people. For 2011, Pennsylvanians must demand a redistricting plan that protects the political power of their communities, and bolsters government accountability through competitive elections – and we must insist that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court uphold the Pennsylvania Constitution’s standards for fair redistricting.

Before our state endures another “Gerry-rigged” redistricting in 2021, we also must reform the system for drawing district lines. California and Iowa have successful systems that could serve as models. Pennsylvanians can have fair and competitive elections that permit them to hold power accountable — but we will have to demand it. If we fail to fix the system, we will continue to be disserved by safe-seat politicians who owe greater loyalty to the funders of their political war-chests than to constituents; and we will continue to be befuddled and angered by the
unintelligible self-serving decisions they make.

Breaking News: Pennsylvania Redistricting Approved by LRC

The Republican majority Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Committee voted yesterday to approve a highly partisan preliminary redistricting plan. (Video available).

In a classic bait and switch, the commission’s Republican majority a redistricting plan that ignores the good faith negotiations of the previous months and is designed only to strengthen a GOP stronghold in the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) argued the map is unfair for the people of Pennsylvania, politically motivated and shows a lack of respect for the constitution.

For the first time, this morning we have seen the map the House Republican have proposed that bears very little resemblance to the negotiations that took place over the last several months, makes changes to decisions which we thought were made as late as last Friday night, and although we would like to participate here today and vote yes for this plan, we also believe the people of Pennsylvania have the right to expect us to behave in a fair and equitable manner, and produce districts which are reflective of their wishes and the population. Right now we have a highly partisan plan offered by the House Republicans that does not do well and honor the people of Pennsylvania. We [Democrats] have a plan here which we are going to offer which complies with the Constitution of Pennsylvania, and complies with the Voting Rights Act, and deals with political fairness. There is no such thing as political fairness in the [short] length of time we have had to observe the Republican plan. And Mr. Chairman [Judge Stephen J. McEven (R)] I would ask, seeing as we have had just 10 minutes or half an hour rather to look at this. If we want to negotiate a plan that is fair, out of fairness, I would request more time to review this plan. We actually have several days into November in order to comply with the law on presenting a preliminary plan, but as it stands right now I certainly can not vote for [this plan], and would request the opportunity to study this plan more diligently and more carefully, other than this half-hour we just had. And I would like the opportunity with honesy and fairness to negotiate a fair plan for all of us.

Pennsylvania State Senate: Interactive Online Google Map, KML File, ESRI Shapefile, PDF File, Text.
Pennsylvania State House: Interactive Online Google Map, KML File, ESRI Shapefile, PDF File, Text.

Anyone who objects to this preliminary plan should file their objection in writing by November 30 to Charles E. O’Connor, Jr., Executive Director, 2011 Legislative Reapportionment Commission, 104 North Office Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120. A public hearing will be held on Friday, November 18, 2011 at 12 noon in Hearing Room #1, North Office Building, Harrisburgh, PA 17120. Please call O’Connor at 717/705-6339 for additional information.

Census 2010: Philadelphia Population Changes

Stephen Von Worley looked at 2010 Census data and compared it to the 2000 Census. Here is Philadelphia. Red indicates blocks whose population went down (solid red is complete depopulation), blue indicates blocks whose population increased (solid red indicates a doubling in population), and white indicates areas that did not have population in either census.

Check out other cities at Data Pointed. Philadelphia is unusual in that it does not show the general pattern of a red urban center surrounded by a ring of blue suburbs.

Musical Chairs: GOP Plans for Pennsylvania Redistricting


This coming week the Census Bureau will be releasing detailed data required for the redistricting of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

In Pennsylvania, the Republicans control all the levers of power; they control the Pennsylvania House of Representative 112-91 and  the Pennsylvania Senate 30-20 while Republican Tom Corbett is Governor.

According to Keegan Gibson at PoliticsPA, “the Republican delegation is coming to Harrisburg” today to plan the redistricting which will change this district map and shape the elections over the next 10 years.

Here are some scenarios that PA’s Republican Congressmen are talking about, according to sources close to the delegation:

  • Schwartz vs. Fattah
    Republicans are eying the possibility of matching up two of PA’s most powerful Democrats in a fratricidal showdown. Allyson Schwartz has millions of campaign dollars and the support of the white collar liberals of the Philly suburbs. Her district currently abuts that of Chaka Fattah, the most liked public figure in Philadelphia. It’s unlikely either would be willing to budge from their seat if their districts were combined, and that would mean a knock-down, drag-out fight between the liberal white Democrats of the suburbs and the African-American Democrats of Philly. What Republican wouldn’t love to see that?
  • Go West, Suburban Republicans
    Each of the Philly area Republicans hopes to have his district made more secure, and they’re looking west to do it.  The state’s population growth is disproportionately found in south central PA, meaning that the Lancaster-based 16th district is likely to contract. That would leave room for Reps. Gerlach and Meehan to move west into the conservative parts of Chester County. Rep. Joe Pitts is the X-factor. The 71 year-old dean of the GOP delegation, Pitts lives in Chester County and would prefer to keep the seat based there.
  • Shuffle Southwest PA Dems and Beat Altmire the Old-Fashioned Way
    The GOP sees Rep. Jason Altmire as the most vulnerable Democrat in PA, but Republicans (read: Reps. Tim Murphy and Bill Shuster) don’t want to pick up Democratic voters from his district.  The GOP is looking at ways to move Democratic voters from Altmire’s district into either that of Rep. Mark Critz or Rep. Mike Doyle in an effort to tweak the 4th district and ensure a GOP win there. And they’re paying attention to rumblings of a Democratic primary challenger for Altmire.
  • Barletta Blues
    No Republican plan currently on the table will make Rep. Lou Barletta’s Scranton and Wilkes-Barre-based district a sure bet for the freshman Congressman. Barring some radical shift in Tim Holden’s 17th district to include the city of Scranton (which is regarded as a distant possibility at this point), Barletta’s district will become only slightly more favorable for Republicans and will still contain the city of Scranton.
  • Democratic Winners
    GOP plans to secure their districts will come as good news to some Democrats, who’s districts are likely to absorb the Democrats that Republicans don’t want. Some of those winners include (as of the current plans): Rep. Mark Critz, Rep. Tim Holden, and Rep. Mike Doyle. Each of their districts is likely to get more blue.

2010 Census Details about Pennsylvania and other states are available after the jump courtesy of the Census Bureau as they become available.

Breaking News: Winners and Losers in the 2010 Census

Dan Loeb

The Census Bureau announced the results of the 2010 Census. As a result a total of 12 seats in the House of Representatives are moving from one state to another with similar changes in each  state's representation in the Electoral College which will choose the U.S. President in 2012, 2016 and 2020. The big winners are Texas and Florida at the expense of states with less population growth like New York and Ohio.

Winners:

  • Texas: 36 (up 4 from 32) – R
  • Florida: 27 (up 2 from 25) – R
  • Arizona: 9 (up from 8) – Ind
  • Georgia: 14 (up from 13) – R
  • Nevada: 4 (up from 3) – Split R Gov, D Leg
  • Utah: 4 (up from 3) – R
  • South Carolina: 7 (up from 6) – R
  • Washington: 10 (up from 9) – Ind

Notes:

  • Ind means the redistricting process is mostly controlled by an independent or bipartisan commission.
  • D means the redistricting process is controlled by Democrats (subject to judicial review).
  • R means the redistricting process is controlled by Republicans (subject to judicial review).
  • Split: In three states (Missouri, Louisiana and Nevada), both chambers of the state legislature are controlled by one party while the governor belongs to the other party. The legislature’s redistricting plan is subject to a possible gubernatorial veto.

Losers:

  • New York: 27 (down 2 from 29) – D
  • Ohio: 16 (down 2 from 18) – R
  • Illinois: 18 (down from 19) – D
  • Iowa: 4 (down from 5) – Ind
  • Louisiana: 6 (down from 7) – Split R Gov, D Leg
  • Massachusetts: 9 (down from 10) – D
  • Michigan: 14 (down from 15) – R
  • Missouri: 8 (down from 9) – Split D Gov, R Leg
  • New Jersey: 12 (down from 13) – Ind
  • Pennsylvania: 18 (down from 19) – R

Missouri almost avoided losing a seat. If it had 5,120 more residents (0.085% extra population, then it would have beaten out North Carolina which would have lost a seat instead. Louisiana’s losses are almost certainly related to post-Katrina migration

Overall, the “red states” tended to gain population and pick up seats at the expense of the “blue states” although they certainly became more “purple” in the process. The states won by Barack Obama lost a total of 6 electoral votes to the states won by John McCain. Thus, had these numbers been in effect during the last election Obama would have won by a smaller margin 359-179 as opposed to 365-173.

If Obama had won only Iowa (in which he had a 9.53% margin) and all of the other states in which he had a bigger margin (but not Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Nebraska’s 2nd district, Indiana, North Carolina or Missouri where he had smaller margins), then using the actual numbers the election would have been a tie in the Electoral College 269-269 but using the new numbers the election would have been a victory for John McCain 275-263. (See spreadsheet for details.) Thus, the shift of 6 electoral votes can make a real difference. In fact, the 1876 Presidential Election between Rutherford Hayes and Samuel Tilden was determined by a single electoral vote while the 2000 Election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was determined by five electoral votes.