Breakdown of a Congressional Map


Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turzai submitted a new congressional map proposal to Governor Wolf late yesterday evening.

Proposed State Congressional Map

Alternative Holt Congressional Map

While the map is undeniably an improvement over the 2011 version, a deeper analysis shows some shortcomings and reveals several choices with far-reaching impacts.

Unnecessary Splits Remain

At a county level, Delaware County and at least one of the four divisions in Montgomery County are not needed. 16 of the proposed 17 municipal splits might also be avoided. Nothing was released on the number of Wards split, meaning the total split count will likely increase once those stats are available. (Note the state split counts are estimates based on data available today.)

Proposed State CD Splits

County 15
Municipal 17
Ward unknown
Precinct 17
"Total Splits" 55

Alternative Holt CD Splits

County 13
Municipal 1
Ward 3
Precinct 0
"Total Splits" 23

Most Influenctial Boundary Choices

Three key choices created a chain-reaction which directed the placement of district boundaries.

Choice 1: Preserve Philadelphia-Delaware connection. By moving CD 1 into Delaware County it meant more population was needed from neighboring Chester and Montgomery Counties. This led to splitting Delaware County and creating an extra split in Montgomery County.

Choice 2: Consolidate Congressional District 12. The southwest region lost a congressional district in 2011, causing two districts to merge into a reconfigured CD 12. The current district sprawls from Beaver across Allegheny and Westmoreland and into Somerset and Cambria. The State chose to go no further east than Allegheny. The State turned to Lawrence County to pick up the needed population from this shift.

Choice 3: Extend CD 10 further south, moving it out of the northern part of the state. This forced changes to other district boundaries.

  • CD 5 moved further east, making it span nearly the entire northern tier of the state.
  • CD 4 (Adams/York) moved further west
  • CD 9 had to pick up some of the central counties, with CD 5 staying to the north and CD 12 staying more in the west.
  • CD 3 (to the northwest) and CD 18 (to the southwest) are then left to pick up the leftover areas.

Minority Respect

The issues in the southeast region stem from one simple, yet complex question: Must municipal and county boundaries be sacrificed for minorities?

The State Legislature has consistently taken the position that Congressional District 1 (CD 1) is a minority-majority district and so requires extending into Delaware County to pick up more minorities.

But is Congressional District 1 actually a minority-majority district? Courts have typically made this determination by this standard: the minority group must be geographically concentrated enough to exceed 50% of the over 18 population in a district. Is that the case with CD 1?

To test this theory, I’ve compared two different boundaries for CD 1 — one that extends into Delaware County (State CD 1) and one that remains entirely in Philadelphia (Holt CD 1).

State CD 1 (18+)

White 47%
Black 32%
Hispanic 13%
Asian 6%
Other 2%

Holt CD 1 (18+)

White 42%
Black 33%
Hispanic 15%
Asian 8%
Other 2%

It is clear no one minority reaches the 50% threshold of the over 18 population. Even so, respecting the county boundaries results in a district more favorable for the minorities. This remains true when comparing the total population in these districts (not just the over 18 population).

State CD 1 (all)

White 42%
Black 34%
Hispanic 15%
Asian 6%
Other 2%

Holt CD 1 (all)

White 37%
Black 36%
Hispanic 17%
Asian 8%
Other 2%

This exposes the fallacy of the State Legislature’s position on Congressional District 1. The minority population receives even more favorable treatment under a map respecting county boundaries.

The ripple affect from CD 1 is felt in the entire southeast region. Choosing to follow the route of the State Legislature leads to needless divisions in the surrounding counties (particularly Delaware and Montgomery). Once again, minorities are used as an excuse to create splits where none are actually required.

Misconceptions About Equality

Again, members of the legislature continue to misunderstand the federal rules on equality. The Pennsylvania Republican Senate said, “In compliance with federal law with respect to population deviations, no district is over or underpopulated by more than one person.”

This directly contradicts the statements made in the last Pennsylvania congressional case where the Court said, “the desire to avoid splitting precincts is a legitimate state interest which could justify a nineteen person deviation.”

The map put forward by Scarnati and Turzai includes a zero deviation, but also splits 17 voting precincts. If needed to eliminate these, federal case law would permit some deviations to avoid divisions to local municipalities. This same court even acknowledged the cost created by splitting a voting precinct and the value of eliminating them from the congressional map.

Missing Vote

According to the Court Order by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the map must be submitted by the General Assembly. Last I checked, the General Assembly still has 253 members not 2. Scarnati and Turzi cannot speak on behalf of the Legislature.

Setting aside the Court Order, Pennsylvania congressional maps historically are approved by a legislative bill. If the previous maps are to be changed, then eventually there will need to be a legislative vote to approve a new set of maps.


It will be interesting to see how Governor Wolf responds. Will he push for no municipal splits? Or will he abandon the direction of the Court Order and leave behind the neutral standards put forth by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court? And what will the voice of the General Assembly say when it finally weighs in?


  1. Great work as always, Amanda. One note: on the Turzai/Scarnati map, I think the “Majority-Minority” district is CD02, not CD01. Your numbers for CD01 are correct, but the new lines push CD02 to about 51% black. So, with regard to VRA compliance, Sen. Scarnati appears to be on solid ground. It’s probably moot, because that map is DOA on the Governor’s desk anyway.

    • You bring up an important clarification. On both map proposals, the minority-majority district is CD-2 (over 50% of the black over 18 population). But each map also makes for a second district which favor minorities (CD-1). Is it necessary to create county and municipal splits in order to respect minorities in CD-1? The evidence clearly shows they might be respected without the splits.

      • Aha – I found the Republican talking points about the gerrymandering of CD01 in Delaware Country satisfying a VRA/PA Case Law requirement to preserve CD01 as a “minority coalition” district. I don’t think that argument will hold up in court, but it works nicely as a sound bite.

  2. Did Scarnati/Turzai claim VRA credit for a second Minority-Majority district in CD01? Maybe I missed it. IIRC, their spokesman just ticked off the list of requirements their map purported to fulfill: compactness, population balance, and a minority-majority district. As your detailed analysis suggests, the way VRA and case law have defined M-M districts, it doesn’t even seem possible to create a second one.

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