House Redistricting Recap


On the eve of the Revised Final Plan public unveiling, we now turn our attention to the House plan — why it was egregious and what quick clues that will indicate whether or not this plan will abide by our constitution.

We begin with reviewing just why the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sent it back to the commission for a re-do in the first place. The primary cause in the House was an excessive number of avoidable subdivision splits (court evidence showed an over 50% reduction was possible). The Justices specifically noted it would not forbid specific divisions, just that the LRC should stay within the limits set by the Constitution.

Excessive Splits

Most prominent are the excessive number of splits that still remain, each of which serves to further dilute the voice of Pennsylvania residents.  The chart to the right illustrates this.

It is also notable that even when doubling the deviation, the Commission still failed to minimize splits to the low level shown in the court evidence. In effect, they have not really used the deviation to minimize splits because a lower number of splits might still be achieved at the original deviation.

This is not to say that the higher deviation should be rejected. The US Supreme Court has been clear that anything under a 10% deviation is considered minor. It simply means that the higher deviation must be used to keep subdivisions whole. As illustrated above, the number of splits may be further reduced when doubling the deviation.

Even more striking are the charts illustrating the reduction possible to “places” alone! Places includes cities, boroughs, and townships. The three ways of counting show reductions ranging from 50 to 120. 

The same is true of wards.  The three ways of counting show reductions ranging from 70 to 170! 

Detached vs. Contiguous Districts

12 pieces of districts in the Revised Preliminary Plan are not attached to the rest of their districts. They include portions of the following townships:

  • Taylor, Lawrence County
  • Mount Joy, Lancaster County
  • Lancaster, Lancaster County
  • East Lampeter, Lancaster County
  • Manheim, Lancaster County
  • West Brunswick, Schuylkill County,
  • Cumru, Berks County
  • Birmingham, Chester County

These show that the excessive divisions were not made to keep districts compact. See page 11 of the Holt Testimony for illustrations.

Sprawling vs. Compact Districts

Numerous districts fail to meet any common sense definition of compactness. Take a look below at some of the more striking examples. There is the “before” from the 2011 LRC plan and then the “after” from 2012. See much of a difference? Neither do I.

In addition, the excessive divisions were not made to increase minority strength in districts. The Commission’s House Plan only had 16 minority-majority districts, while public testimony showed 18-19 districts were possible while still significantly reducing the number of splits. And all this could be accomplished at a slightly lower overall population deviation.

House Indicator Checklist for Final Plan 

When the Final Plan is revealed tomorrow (on June 8), it is important to watch for signs of trouble. Checking the following five elements will indicate whether or not our constitution was put first:

  • No divisions in Bradford or Forest Counties
  • Only 5-6 districts in Pittsburgh
  • No divisions in Radnor Twp, Delaware Co. or Lower Merion, Montgomery Co.
  • Contiguous districts in the Lancaster County area (pick one to check)
  • More obvious compactness in Districts 77, 82, and 189

If all of these are true of the final plan, it will indicate that the final plan has moved toward constitutional compliance.  Of course conclusive proof will only come from statewide analysis.

Watch PCN tomorrow at 2pm to find out what happens. Be sure to check out my Senate Recap, as well.

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Amanda began delving into the subject of redistricting in October of 2010 on her quest to know why. Helped by a love of puzzles, attention to detail, and a great deal of persistence, her efforts eventually led her to a historic victory before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. She documents her journey at, inspiring others through numerous presentations across the state. The recipient of several honors, her work has also been featured in every major Pennsylvania newspaper, making headline news in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.


  1. I am interested in taling to you to learn more about the prospects of getting a favorable judicial ruling on the second appeal…my telephone number is 570-325-3611…

  2. The plan, known as the Redistricting Reform Act of 2011, would establish a permanent Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts. It was introduced into the Assembly by Speaker Sheldon Silver as A5388 and is known as S3419 in the Senate.

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