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Scarnati: (Lack of) redistricting hurt GOP

Published by Tim McNulty on .

38th Senate district

With all the talk lately on how/if redistricting played into Republicans taking 13 of the state's 18 congressional seats last week, it's worth noting that the lack of new maps in the state Legislature helped Democrats there. Just ask Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati.

Democrats picked up 3 Senate seats last week, making the party split 27-23, the narrowest GOP lead in two decades. The AP's Marc Levy has the story:

But Scarnati also insisted that the Democratic election gains were a result of decade-old district boundaries newer, Republican-favored maps are still awaiting court approval and a huge Democratic voter turnout to support the re-election of President Barack Obama.

"I do not see it as our policy, I don't see it as our leadership and I don't see it as our failure," Scarnati said. "We're going to continue as we have in the past. We'll be aggressive in making sure that our policies in the Senate's Republican caucus will have their vote on the floor."

A slim state Supreme Court majority (joined by Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a Republican) threw out the proposed legislative lines in January. They heard testimony on proposed new lines in September. One example of the kind of seat the GOP could pick up in 2014 is the proposed 38th, which was carved to give incumbent Democratic firebrand Jim Ferlo most of the GOP-packed North Hills represented by Shaler Republican Randy Vulakoviich and the tiny bit of blue Pittsburgh where Ferlo lives.

UPDATE: There's an interesting study at elections site The Monkey Cage today showing that where Democrats controlled redistricting they saw congressional gains, but at rates smaller than in GOP-controlled states. Democrats also outperfomed in states without the urban/rural divide seen in states like Pa, mostly because of the surge of Dem-voting Hispanics. The conclusion:

In direct support of the Chen and Rodden argument, states that are heavily urbanized (such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania) are more distorted against Democrats than more rural states (such as Minnesota and Wisconsin). Indeed, urbanization has a negative and significant effect on the difference between seats won by Democrats and expected seats, even after controlling for the party in control of redistricting.

Of course, this analysis does not imply that Democrats are doomed to the minority for the foreseeable future, or even the next decade. The Pennsylvania map includes five Republican seats won by Obama in 2008, suggesting that a wave of sufficient strength could reverse the delegation's majority. But because of unequal concentrations of vote share in most states, not just those with Republican gerrymanders, a Democratic majority will be more difficult than it should be. And this difficulty persists even when both parties agree to the maps.

Changing our redistricting institutions alone will not assure national proportionality.

Graphic: Chris Briem/Null Space

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