If you believe local Democrats, the newly drawn 3rd district is an example of egregious gerrymandering, and it is the worst thing that has ever happened to Erie, and it is a terrible outrage that must be corrected. Splitting Erie County is a particularly terrible thing to do, especially since the district now extends into Butler County, which is the home of our incumbent congressman, Mike Kelly.
Now let’s compare the rhetoric to the actual map of the district, before and after redistricting. Here is a map of PA districts for the last 10 years:
In this map, Erie County is the only county that is not carved up. Warren County looks like dragon claws are clutching it. Crawford County, for some strange reason, has Titusville carved out of it. Mercer County is mostly in the third district, except for a tiny chunk in the southwest corner that belongs to the 4th district. Venango County is split up between the 3rd and the 5th , and Armstrong County is split between the 3rd and the oddly shaped 12th. Butler County is about 80% in the 3rd, and the remaining 20% is in the 4th district. As you can see, these lines were not drawn with any respect for county lines, and the district is rather funny-looking. However, it looks positively square compared to the 12th and 18th districts.
Here is a map of the new PA districts:
The 3rd district is no uglier than before, and in fact, it keeps Crawford, Mercer, Butler, and Armstrong Counties intact. Erie County is divided, but Warren and Venango Counties are not. It also includes most of Lawrence County and part of Clarion County. Yes, this district is more Republican than before, but it also keeps more counties intact. Meanwhile, the neighboring 12th and 18th districts are still ugly, but not as bad as before.
So why are Democrats complaining? They say that splitting Erie County will reduce Erie’s influence, and that is probably true. But we deserve that. Our population has been stagnant for decades, and redistricting reflects that, and there is nothing we can do about it except have more babies who grow up and stay in Erie. Really, the charge of gerrymandering is silly, since all the districts in Western now look less gerrymandered than they did before. Yes, the maps are drawn in a way that favors Republicans, but that is what Republicans do when they are in the majority and get to draw the maps. Democrats would have done the same thing if they had won the 2010 elections.
In my opinion, the Democrats are whining because they want an issue to fire up their base. The problem is, their charge is not true for Western PA, so they have to make it up. And they are assuming that their followers in Western PA are too stpid to actually look at a map. They might be right about that. Besides, this is the map that PA Democrats proposed. Remember, the Democrats are supposedly against gerrymandering:
This map totally butchers Western and Central PA. Incidentally, it looks like it redistricts our congressman right out of our district, or at least puts him on the very edge.
If PA Democrats were a bit smarter, they would focus on where the real gerrymandering was, over in eastern PA. In the Republican map, the 6th, 7th and 13th districts look like a newly hatched nest of vipers. This plan only passed the State Senate by 26-24, as many Republicans didn’t like it.
If the Democrats had accepted the western PA map, while proposing some needed changes in Eastern PA, they might have taken the moral high ground, and they might have raised a public outcry that could have led to some compromises. However, their own plan was also rather partisan, so they gave up any claim to the moral high ground.