Editor’s corner: State can’t keep up with the South

Hearing the news that Pennsylvania lost one Congressional seat earlier this week was not all bad. Over the 10-year period from 2011-20, overall population increased from 12,734,905 to 13,011,844.

Unfortunately, other states — especially those in the Sun Belt and South — saw much greater gains. So the question becomes this: if we are holding our own, why are we penalized?

Believe it or not, on a quick review, only three states saw population declines the U.S. Census revealed on Monday. Those three states were Illinois, Mississippi and West Virginia. As the 47 others and the District of Columbia showed minimal to large increases, such as Florida and Texas growing by some 3 million residents, our Commonwealth just cannot keep up.

Rust-belt states all have seen representation decrease as the industrial job market has shifted. Consider, in 1960, this state had 27 representatives in Congress. Starting in 2022, we will have 17. Ohio, during that time period, will go from 24 to 15; New York from 41 to 26 and even West Virginia from five to two.

This reduced representation also can create a mess known as “gerrymandering,” where the dominant political parties begin to map out regions where they can have the most influence. It’s a poison for democracy and respected politicians know it.

“In my first campaign, I ran against an incumbent in a very competitive district and won with 52% of the vote,” wrote Bill Clinger, former U.S. representative for our region from 1977 to 1997, in the April 17 Times Observer. “In my last campaign, the Pennsylvania Legislature had gerrymandered the District so much that no Democrat chose to run against me. Today, with gerrymandered districts, the primaries are the contested elections, and the primaries favor those unwilling to work with members of the other party to get things done.”

Recent elections have proven that Americans are losing faith in the process. If redistricting becomes too political, that may only add to the angst that was seen after last November’s results.

John D’Agostino is the editor of the Times Observer, The Post-Journal and OBSERVER in Dunkirk, N.Y. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call (716) 487-1111, ext. 253.


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