York remains a county divided in Pennsylvania's new congressional map
York remains a county divided in the new congressional map handed down by the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Republicans remain strongly favored in both districts — the 10th and the 11th — despite some slight boundary changes in the new map, which brings more of Cumberland County into the oft-contested 10th.
"I think the map was one that most political analysts expected, one that more favored Democrats than the Republicans," said political analyst G. Terry Madonna. "It's not terribly unlike the 2018 map, the current map, so we'll have to see what transpires."
As a whole, the new map is slightly more advantageous for Democrats — if only by virtue of the state losing one of its congressional seats due to sluggish population growth. The new map, approved in a 4-3 decision, jettisons a Republican-leaning seat.
The new map provides eight Republican-leaning districts, six Democratic-leaning districts and three closely divided districts, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, a website that focuses on opinion poll analysis.
York's 10th Congressional District, represented by Republican Rep. Scott Perry, encompasses northern York County as far south as Spring Garden, West Manchester and Springettsbury townships. That district also includes Dauphin and Cumberland counties.
The 11th District, represented by Republican Rep. Lloyd Smucker, encompasses southern York County to the Maryland line. It also includes Hellam, Jackson and North Codorus townships as well as all of Lancaster County.
Muhlenberg College professor Chris Borick said that the map had only modest changes.
"It doesn't change all that much, given that we had to lose a seat," he said. "The map looks very similar to the previous map, so if you like (the current) one you're probably pretty happy with this one."
Borick said that although he understands Republicans would want a more favorable map without judicial intervention, the map is far from an extremely gerrymandered one.
"Does it look like there's been a lot of tortured lines on this map to create districts? And I think the answer's no, I think they're pretty contiguous," he said. "On the whole, I think the product is fairly reasonable."
The FiveThirtyEight analysis notes that the partisan lean of the two York districts — a measure of how their respective electorates have voted in recent contests — is virtually identical. The 11th remains unchanged at R+26 while the 10th shifted one point toward the GOP, at R+9, compared to the 2018 map.
Borick said that out of the two, the 10th District has the greatest likelihood of being competitive in the right election cycle and with the right candidate. However, the districts remain fairly solidly Republican.
The 2018 map came about after a lawsuit by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania struck down the map that took effect in 2011, successfully arguing that the 2011 map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander by Republicans.
The court ended up with the decision after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature deadlocked on a new plan. That map had been drawn by redistricting reform advocate and former Republican Lehigh County Commissioner Amanda Holt and had been championed by state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township.
Grove was sharply critical of the Supreme Court's decision Wednesday.
"In its ruling, the court said elected members of the General Assembly, who are tasked with ensuring the voices of Pennsylvanians are heard, don’t matter," Grove said, in a written statement. "Instead, the court said the National Democratic Redistricting Committee outweighs the voice of the people."
Grove also highlighted the recommendation by Republican Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough, which supported the legislature-backed map. While McCullough was designated as a special master, the Supreme Court was not bound to follow her recommendation.
Madonna predicted that the newly selected map will likely stay in place due to its similarities with the 2018 map.
Justice Debra Todd, a Democrat, joined Republican Justices Sallie Updyke Mundy and Kevin Brobson in opposing the decision.
The approved map offered something for both Republicans and Democrats. For Republicans, it kept the city of Pittsburgh largely confined to one district while preserving a competitive district for Republicans in its suburbs. It also helped protect Republican Brian Fitzpatrick by keeping all of Bucks County in a single district.
For Democrats, the map ensures each Democratic incumbent has their own district and it keeps the metropolitan Harrisburg area in one district with York, instead of splitting it into several districts, as Republicans had sought.
Chair of the York County Democrats Chad Baker said the map didn't change their strategy much in terms of trying to unseat Perry and Smucker.
"There is some change there, but I think it’s relatively small overall and it’s essentially what we’ve been working with for the last few cycles," he said. "We’ve talked to candidates in both districts and they’ve expressed interest in running, so now our focus turns to petitioning.”
In the 10th, former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is once again running to unseat Perry. In the 11th, former Eastern Lancaster County School District Superintendent Bob Hollister is running as a Democrat to unseat Smucker.
In its decision, the state Supreme Court also adjusted the petition gathering schedule to start this Friday and run until March 15, but left the May 17 primary date intact for congressional races and statewide contests.
Another order, however, suspended the primary election calendar for state legislative candidates because new state House and Senate maps are being challenged in court.
York County GOP Chair Jeff Piccola did not respond to a request for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
— Reach Matt Enright via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.