By Louis Jacobson
PoliticsPA Contributing Writer
The news for Pennsylvania from reapportionment day was grim — but hardly unfamiliar.
The Census Bureau today unveiled its once-every-decade changes in Congressional representation, and Pennsylvania lost a seat, dropping from 19 to 18. The Keystone State has lost at least one seat in every decade of the last century, leaving it at exactly half the 36 seats it had in 1910.
Optimists will counter that this decade left the state a bit better off than the recent past: It’s the first time Pennsylvania has lost only a single seat since the 1940 Census.
The Republican takeover of state government last month — with a Republican replacing a Democrat as governor and the state House flipping to the Republicans, joining an already Republican state Senate — means that the GOP has the power to draw favorable lines for itself.
But if the GOP had wanted to ensconce itself safely after the 2000 Census, it overreached, producing a highly competitive map that trended Democratic through most of the decade.
In addition, the five-seat GOP gain in 2010 likely made it harder for Republicans to actually gain seats as a result of redistricting, given the underlying partisan preferences of Pennsylvanians. While additional gains are hardly impossible, the GOP may decide to focus on strengthening its potentially vulnerable incumbents rather than take over additional territory.
We’ll provide informed speculation on potential changes in district lines in a later story.
Among its regional neighbors, Pennsylvania grew faster than New York (2.1 percent growth) and Massachusetts (3.1 percent) but slower than New Jersey (4.5), Maryland (9.0), Delaware (14.6), Connecticut (4.9) and New Hampshire (6.5).
Essentially, Pennsylvania grew in population — but not fast enough to keep up with the rest of the nation. Thus the lost House seat.
If the Census had only used citizens to calculate the reapportionment, rather than all “inhabitants” as the Constitution requires, Pennsylvania, as well as several other states, would have stayed even rather than losing a seat, according to PoliData, a political demographic firm.
Two Pennsylvania neighbors fared worse: Ohio and New York, which lost two seats each. New Jersey joined Pennsylvania in losing one seat. This pattern continues a long-term shift of Congressional representation from the Northeast to the South and West.