2020 Census: Pennsylvania lost congressional seat

Pennsylvania officially lost a congressional seat on Monday after the U.S. Census Bureau released its 10-year apportionmentdata.

The latest results mean the state’s 2.4% population growth between 2010 and 2020 wasn’t fast enough to save its 18th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Pennsylvania has lost a district in every reapportionment since 1930, federal data shows.

The state will also lose one vote in the Electoral College, reducing the state’s impact on presidential elections.

READ: Election news: Voter registration deadline approaching

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Total residents over the past decade crept up just over 13 million. That makes Pennsylvania the fifth most populous state in the country behind California, Texas, Florida and New York. Illinois followed in a close sixth place with more than 12.8 million residents. It, too, lost its 18th congressional seat.

The bureau said it will release more granular data about which regions of the state lost or gained more residents later this year. That information could factor into which seat the General Assembly and Gov. Tom Wolf decide to cut.

Population shifts and the NDRC

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, however, says the 15th district should be the first to go. It stretches from the state’s New York border in McKean and Warren counties more than 150 miles south to Cambria County.

“Given population shifts within the Commonwealth, eliminating the 15th district provides the best opportunity to minimize the impact on representation in surrounding districts,”said Fernando Treviño, NDRCPennsylvania State Director.

The NDRC credited itself for flipping 11 seats in the state House of Representatives and 5 Senate seats during the 2018 election cycle; breaking Republicans’ supermajority in the upper chamber.

Eliminating the 15th district, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, could tip the state’s delegation from an even party split to a Democratic majority.

Pennsylvania’s recent reapportionment history, however, leaves little hope for a smooth transition. In 2011, critics argued that Republicans gerrymandered maps to cement their power that resulted in bizarre and nonsensical district borders. Republicans controlled both chambers of the Legislature and the executive office at that time.

The state Supreme Court tossed the maps in 2018 and forced the Legislature to start over. The redrawn districts flipped a 13-5 Republican majority to a 9-9 even split.

Treviño said it shouldn’t take a lawsuit to “ensure fair and equal representation.”

“NDRC will do everything in our power to ensure that there is a fair and transparent process that results in maps where both parties must compete to win the support of Pennsylvanians at the polls,” he said

Legislative Reapportionment Commission

For now, it’s up to the Legislative Reapportionment Commission to begin the redistricting process. The Commission is staffed by the House and Senate minority and majority leaders.

It will work with legislative staff to draw 17 new districts, based on the census data. Those districts will require approval in the General Assembly and the governor’s signature. 

The commission met Monday to collect testimony from more than 60 candidates who applied to be the group’s fifth member and chairperson. A second meeting is scheduled today.

The state constitution says the fifth member cannot hold local, state or federal office “to which compensation is attached.” Former chairs include former state court judges, attorneys and university leaders.

The deadline to select a candidate is Friday.

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Christen Smith

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania’s General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.

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