Pennsylvania's Redistricting Puzzle

Elbows are out as Pennsylvania's decennial redistricting of congressional and state legislative seats gets underway, with population shifting from the west eastward into central Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley and the Poconos region.

At the same time, in a dichotomy noted by Republican political strategist Christopher Nicholas, political power in Pennsylvania has tilted to the west. The people with influence over the new maps, Gov. Corbett (R) and five of the top six legislative leaders hail from Steelers Nation.

This power is most direct when it comes to U.S. House districts, as state lawmakers simply carve the map in the form of a bill that enumerates the new boundaries. Pennsylvania is dropping from 19 members of the House to 18, since its population growth was anemic compared to other states, particularly in the south and west. 

Capitol Hill and Harrisburg buzzing, with members of Congress lobbying to survive, Republicans looking to preserve their recent gains, and Democrats to try to prevent a power-grab gerrymandering job. Here's a preliminary look at some of the scenarios being discussed on the congressional side, from today's Philadelphia Inquirer.

State House and Senate districts will be mapped by the Legislative Redistricting Commission, consisting of the majority and minority leaders of each house, who will pick a fifth, independent, chairman. That commission is scheduled to meet for the first time next Wednesday in Harrisburg.

The legislative stuff happens first, and then the congressional-district bill is written. Leadership says it expects that the congressional districts will be done in the fall.

Nicholas, president of Eagle Consulting Group in Harrisburg, has been crunching numbers ahead of the pack for weeks. Here he is with Eric Kratz, political director of the PA Business Council, presenting a seminar/webinar overview of the situation in the the state.