Jews and the census  

Jews and the census  

Pennsylvania will lose one congressional seat, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau Report, which was released Tuesday. Neighboring West Virginia will keep the three congressional districts it currently has.
Pennsylvania’s population rose 3.5 percent over the past 10 years to stand at 12.7 million, according to the census report. That suggests growth, but not enough to offset the migration to southern states. West Virginia’s population rose 2.5 percent, or 1.8 million.
It could have been worse. Two Rust Belt states — New York and Ohio — are losing two seats.
Be that as it may, the census report raises some questions for Jewish voters in Pennsylvania. Namely, will their clout in congressional elections be affected by the loss of a congressional district?
Answer: No one really knows — yet.
This question may be anathema to many Jews who don’t care to be lumped into an ethnic voting bloc, preferring to see themselves as individuals who vote for the person. But the political reality is that ethnic, religious, gender and age voting blocs do matter. Candidates who know they matter court these voters — hard. Remember the full-page ads in the Chronicle this fall taken out by the Toomey and Sestak campaigns?
Besides, to deny that Jews have special interests on which they vote — Israel, human rights, separation of church and state — is also unrealistic.
So when the 2012 congressional elections roll around, will the Jewish vote around the state be diluted as one of its 19 congressional districts is taken away?
Well, maybe.
Redistricting is a highly politicized process, and the party in power in each state — in Pennsylvania’s case the Republicans — will try to draw congressional districts most advantageous to them. Most Jews tended to vote Democrat in the last election.
It’s too early to say if this would or could happen, and most likely it won’t.
But here’s the point: Redistricting is an issue in which Jews have a vested interest — just like taxes, health care, the environment and national security. We make sure our voices are heard on those issues; we should do no less when the legislature gets to work on our new congressional district map.