Check out the Pennsylvania State House’s proposed map scores in each key area

A proposed reshuffle of the Pennsylvania House map improves fairness measures as mandated by the state’s constitution, while creating more districts that could be won by Democrats.

The preliminary map was approved in a much contested split vote by the five-member Legislative Redistribution Commission. Both Democratic legislative leaders on the panel voted yes while their Republican counterparts voted no, with House Majority Leader Kerry Benningoff (R., Center) calling him a partisan gerrymander.

The non-partisan chairman of the committee, former Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh, Mark Nordenberg, voted to break the tie at the December 16 meeting.

“The main purpose of the constitution is not to ensure that there is a fair fight between the leaders of opposing parties every 10 years, but rather to facilitate what will be a good redistributive result for the people of Pennsylvania. “, did he declare.

The public has until January 16 to provide an answer, while the panel plans to hold hearings before changing the map and taking a final vote. The card could then be challenged in court. The state congress map is created and approved in a separate process.

While Republicans believe the proposal is unfair to their party members, standards of fairness mandated by the state’s constitution and passed by the courts show it represents an improvement over the current map.

The Pennsylvania Constitution explicitly lists four requirements for the state’s House and Senate districts: compactness, adjacency, minimum divisions, and equal population. Here’s how the proposal compares to these and other metrics:

>> MY CARD: Search now to see your old and new legislative constituencies


Compactness examines how close all parts of a neighborhood are to each other. It is intended to avoid the protuberances which would isolate certain inhabitants of the district. The Pennsylvania Constitution requires districts to be compact, but it does not specify a metric or minimum threshold for measuring districts.

The proposed house plan has an average level of compactness, scoring better than the current map on two commonly used metrics, the Polsby-Popper test and the Reock scale. Rated on a scale of 0 to 1, where 1 corresponds to maximum compactness, the proposed plan reaches 0.35 on the Polsby-Popper scale and 0.46 on the Reock scale. The current house card rolls 0.27 and 0.36 respectively.

Map of the Pennsylvania house offered via DistrictBuilder

Proposed District 64 (shown in green) meets the compactness standard, keeping Venango County entire and using only a geographically close and compact section of a neighboring county.


Contiguity means that there is no part of a neighborhood that is detached from the rest or completely isolated. The plan of the house responds to this metric.

Minimization of fractionation

This measure is intended to keep the communities together. Cartographers aim to reduce divisions between counties, municipalities and constituencies, although most tend to focus on narrowing the first two.

the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a non-partisan group that performs data analysis on district plans across the country, gave the map an A rating for county divisions. Of the 45 counties that were divided 184 times in total, 40 of them were too large to contain their population in a single district. The current map divides 50 counties over 200 times.

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Map of the Pennsylvania house offered via DistrictBuilder

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the map an A rating for avoiding county divisions where possible.

Equality of the population

The Pennsylvania Constitution requires that each district have approximately the same number of inhabitants. According to a United States Supreme Court case from the 1980s, the commonly accepted deviation from this standard for an individual legislative district is greater or less than 5% of the ideal population size and 10% for the global card.

The population gap of the proposed map as a whole, 9.28%, is just below the allowable range established by the court. Nordenberg said in December that this was one of the areas he intended to improve when reviewing the cards over the next month.

Partisan fairness

Republicans have been screaming scandal so far, accusing the panel of creating a pro-Democrat partisan gerrymander. However, a review of various metrics shows that the proposed map has a bias towards the GOP.

One such measure is proportionality, which examines whether the likely election results in each constituency, based on past election data, would result in a pool of elected officials reflecting the ratio of Democratic and Republican voters in the State.

Dave’s recutting app, a mapping site dedicated to the creation and analysis of neighborhood maps, called the “Very Good” proposition for proportionality, with a much smaller Republican lean than the current card. The likely number of Democratic seats would be 105, a difference of just one seat from the number of Democratic seats closest to proportional, 106.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project examines a variety of factors when assessing partisan fairness. One of these factors is partisan bias, or the difference in the share of seats between parties, even though each party received 50% of the vote. In this regard, the card has a Republican bias of 1.7%.

Another factor is the average percentage of votes a party gets to win a riding. The average must be relatively equal between the parties; if a party gets a higher percentage of the vote to win an election, it indicates that its voters could be unfairly dispersed or crowded into a constituency. Under the “Packed Wins” metric, the proposed card favors Republicans by 3.8%.

Overall, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project called the card a “mixed partisan advantage”. noting that he had a “slight Republican advantage when measured by statewide voting-related metrics, but is more pro-Democrats than geography alone.”


Competitiveness indicates how many ridings have an equal balance between Democratic and Republican voters, resulting in no party dominance in the region. Supporters of the redistribution believe that constituencies with this composition will be represented by legislators who are more sensitive to voters, because their constituencies are less “secure”.

The Princeton Gerrymandering project gave the proposed card an F score on competitiveness, noting that only 17 districts are “competitive”. Dave’s Redistricting also rated the map as less competitive, qualifying only 13.56% of its districts as competitive compared to the current map’s 18.65%. Both are still a long way from what Dave’s Redistricting calls a good level of competitive districts, around 75%.

Minority representation

Correctly represent communities of color, that are driving Pennsylvania’s population growth, was a subject of great importance during the meetings of the Legislative Redistribution Commission.

Where possible, cartographers aim to create majority-minority districts – those where the majority population is made up of a minority group.

The proposed House plan outperforms the current map in terms of minority representation.

In total, there are 25 districts where a minority community or a coalition of minority communities represents the majority of the population – the same as the current map.

But the proposed map also creates 19 districts with minority populations above 35%, creating a significant voting block, while the current map only has 13.

This article is part of a yearlong reporting project focusing on redistribution and gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. It is made possible thanks to the support of PA projector members and Vote, a project focused on the integrity of elections and access to the vote.

WESA partners with Spotlight PA, a collaborative, reader-funded newsroom producing accountability journalism for all of Pennsylvania. More than

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