Pennsylvania Democrats face huge task in retaking the legislature, but there’s hope for the future

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

Daily Kos Elections’ project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation arrives in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the 46th state we’ve released data for. You can find our master list of states here, which we’ll be updating as we add new states; you can also find all our data from 2016 and past cycles here.

Pennsylvania surprisingly, and distressingly, gave Donald Trump a 49-48 win over Hillary Clinton last year, a big switch from Barack Obama’s 52-47 victory against Mitt Romney. Far less surprisingly, Trump also carried a majority of the Keystone State’s 203 state House seats and 50 state Senate districts. Trump took 119 seats in the House and 27 Senate seats. Thanks to GOP gerrymandering, Romney carried 114 House districts and also won 27 Senate seats despite losing the state four years ago, though he and Trump traded quite a few constituencies in each chamber.

Republicans flipped the state House in the 1994 GOP wave, and while Democrats won small majorities in 2006 and 2008, Team Red retook the chamber in 2010. Republicans currently hold a 121-82 majority in the lower chamber, where members serve two-year terms. (Two Democratic-held seats are currently vacant; Daily Kos Elections always assigns vacant seats to the party that last held them.)

The Senate, meanwhile, has been in GOP hands continuously since 1994. Democrats held out hope ahead of the 2014 elections that they could at least force the chamber a tie, which a Democratic lieutenant governor would break in their favor. However, things didn’t work out that way at all, and the GOP now holds a huge 34-16 edge, which would allow them to override Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s vetoes if not for their smaller House majority. Senators serve four-year terms: Odd numbered seats are up in presidential years, while the even seats are up in midterm cycles.

Before we dive into the numbers, there’s one big reason for Pennsylvania Democrats to hope that the next decade will treat them far better on the legislative front than the last few have. While state lawmakers draw up Pennsylvania’s congressional districts, things work differently when it comes to crafting the legislature’s own lines.

An evenly split bipartisan commission handles legislative redistricting, but the state Supreme Court (whose members are elected on a partisan basis) appoints a tiebreaker if needed. The GOP had controlled the high court for ages, and the Republican tiebreaker has voted to adopt Republican-friendly maps in recent decades. However, Democrats now hold a five-to-two majority on the Supreme Court, and since they’re very likely to keep that edge through 2021, we could see some very different boundaries for both the state House and Senate following the next census.