by Christopher Nicholas
Nicholas was one of PoliticsPA’s Top Operatives of 2010
Now that the Census Bureau has re-apportioned America’s 435 Congressional districts among the states and Pennsylvania is set to lose a seat, the serious task of re-districting — a political process controlled by politicians — can begin.
Essentially the state’s 19 congressional districts must be redrawn into 18 districts. (The 203 state House and 50 state Senate districts must also be re-drawn.)
There’s an ‘art’ to redrawing the districts but there’s quite a bit of science involved too. And while the boundaries will be redrawn based on population figures the Census Bureau will release in April — voter registration figures in each precinct will ultimately guide the ins and outs of the process.
For several years the conventional wisdom has been that Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state by about 1.2 million voters – about double what the traditional Democratic edge has been. But a thorough analysis of the state’s registration data – specifically the number of active voters — shows that the gap has narrowed significantly. Taking into account voters that have been marked as inactive there are now only 895,437 more D’s than R’s.
Here’s what the state’s December 2010 voter registration data showed:
• Active Registered Democrats = 3,490,301
• Active Registered Republicans = 2,594,864
• Current Democrat Advantage = 895,437
Bruce Willsie, President of the voter data company Labels and Lists, explains that inactive voters “are voters who have not voted in a long while and have been sent a card in an attempt to confirm that they still live at the listed address. If they do not respond to the card they are coded as ‘inactive’ and technically cannot vote unless they show up to the polling place and present evidence that they still live at the listed address. Very few of them do this and most either no longer live in the area or are deceased.”
Certainly the Republican Party’s dominance during the 2010 election cycle helped attract more voters to the GOP but the big change was in Philadelphia. The data shows that more than 121,000 city voters (87,549 Democrats; 18,844 Republicans and 14,972 others) have recently been flagged as inactive and are thus ineligible to vote.
The Democrats still hold a large – though shrinking — edge in voter registration, but the trend is now tilting toward the GOP and will definitely impact the upcoming redistricting process – already set to be ruled by the Republican Party due to its control of both the Legislature and the Governor’s office.
The new year will bring an explosion of competing Congressional redistricting maps since the computer technology now exists to manipulate large volumes of voter data in real time. No longer the province of just political parties, interest groups as well as bloggers will now be able to combine the new computer technology with available voter data and create their own redistricting maps. Be prepared to be inundated as we enter a new era of “citizen redistricting.”
Christopher Nicholas is a veteran Republican political consultant who has been recognized by PoliticsPa.com as one of Pennsylvania’s top GOP operatives. He is President of Eagle Consulting Group, Inc., a Harrisburg-based political and public affairs consulting firm and can be contacted at Chris@EagleConsult.com or on Twitter @Eagle63.