HARRISBURG – On Friday, the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission will hear testimony from redistricting experts on the preliminary maps.
The analysis that is to be presented by Dr. Michael Barber of Brigham Young University, which uses statistical techniques endorsed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in League of Women Voters of Pa. v. Com., 645 Pa. 1, 124-125 (2018), clearly shows the preliminary House map is “an extreme partisan gerrymander.”
>> Read the entire report here
Here are a few excerpts from the report on pertinent topics:
The Commission proposal generates 107 Democratic leaning districts (districts with a partisan index greater than 0.50), which is 10 seats larger than the most common outcome generated by the simulations, 97.
And yet the degree to which the Commission's proposal diverges from the distribution of simulation results is extreme and represents a significant deviation from a fair outcome. Thus, the significant deviation observed here strongly suggests that the Commission's plan was drawn using some other, or additional criteria. This could, of course, include a motivation for Democratic partisan advantage given the incredibly large deviation between the number of Democratic districts generated by the proposal and the range of Democratic-leaning districts generated by the simulations.
On Pennsylvania’s natural political geography:
The upshot of this pattern is that political parties stand at a disadvantage when their voters are not efficiently distributed across the state.
Pennsylvania's redistricting rules that require districts to be geographically compact and to avoid county and municipal divisions prohibit the type of meandering … In the end, this means that Republicans begin the redistricting process with a natural geographic advantage due to the combination of laws requiring where and how districts are drawn combined with the particular spatial distribution of their voters.
On how the map gerrymanders to overcome Democrats’ natural political geographical disadvantage:
In many of the largest cities in these counties the Commission unnecessary divides these cities when the population of these cities would not otherwise require them to be divided.
On the map diluting the voting strength of minority populations:
Unnecessary splits are often accomplished by dividing cities that contain substantial minority populations. As a result, many of the districts created using this strategy crack minority populations and dilute their influence in the resulting districts.
In Allentown/Lehigh County:
The Commission's plan achieves this by dividing the city of Allentown in Lehigh County more than is necessary so as to more evenly distribute the Democratic voters that live in the city across more districts…this division follows the gerrymandering strategy of dividing Democratic cities into pinwheel shapes where Democratic voters in the city can be combined with less Democratic areas outside of the city to make more Democratic districts with comfortable margins, but not the overwhelmingly Democratic margins that would occur if fewer districts were drawn that were more geographically compact and split the city fewer times. In some cases, this approach also has the effect of dividing minority communities that live in these cities and diluting their influence by distributing them across multiple legislative districts.
As a whole, Allentown has a Hispanic voting age population of 48.9%. While District 22 is a majority Latino, Districts 134 and 132 have substantially lower Latino populations (38.5% and 18.1%, respectively) as a result of the districts dividing the city and reaching into more suburban areas with a lower concentration of Latinos.
In Lancaster County:
In Lancaster this approach also has the effect of dividing and diluting the influence of the Latino community that lives in the city by distributing them across multiple legislative districts.
While Lancaster itself is heavily Democratic (its partisan index based on the 2012-2020 statewide elections is 0.76), the inclusion of the more Republican leaning suburbs distributes Democrats more efficiently to create two Democratic leaning districts rather than one district that is overwhelmingly Democratic.
[T]his approach also divides the Latino population in the city…As a whole, Lancaster has a Latino voting age population of 35.9%. Both Districts 96 and 50 have a lower Latino population (13.7% and 32.8%, respectively) as a result of the districts dividing the city and reaching into more suburban areas with a lower concentration of Latinos.
In Berks County:
In Berks County the Commission's plan creates an additional Democratic district by dividing the city of Reading more than is necessary…Reading is too large to be completely contained in one district and will need to be divided into two districts. However, the Commission's plan divides the city four different times into three different districts.
In Reading this approach also has the effect of dividing and diluting the influence of the Latino community that lives in the city by distributing them across multiple legislative districts.
Reading has a Latino voting age population of 64.0%. All three Districts that intersect Reading have a lower Latino population (35.5% in HD-126, 35.4% in HD-129, and 51.7% in HD-127) as a result of the districts dividing the city and reaching into more suburban areas with a lower concentration of Latinos.
Harrisburg is not larger than the target district population and could be kept whole. However, the Commission's plan divides the city into two districts.
In Harrisburg this approach also has the effect of dividing the Black community that lives in the city and distributes them across multiple legislative districts… Harrisburg has a Black voting age population of 47.3%. Both districts that intersect Harrisburg have a lower Black population (22.2% in HD-103, 31.0% in HD-104) as a result of the districts dividing the city and reaching into more suburban areas with a lower Black population.
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