Pa. voters still have clout. Here’s how they stack up against other states | Monday Morning Coffee

As the state loses population, its power on Capitol Hill also diminishes

By: - October 31, 2022 7:12 am
The U.S. Capitol. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The U.S. Capitol (Samuel Corum/Getty Images).

When the next Congress takes the oath of office in 2023, Pennsylvania will have one less lawmaker in the state House of Representatives. And with that loss comes a diminution of the state’s clout on Capitol Hill.

Thanks to population changes, Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation will shrink by one in the next Congress, from 18 to 17 seats, which means the state, while still an Electoral College prize, will lose one vote, dropping from 20 to 19 votes (based on the size of the House delegation and two U.S. senators).

This doesn’t mean the state will completely lose its voice in the federal government. But it is part of an ongoing trend that has seen the nation’s fifth-most populous state lose a congressional seat in the last few rounds of the decennial remapping.

In case you’re wondering how Pennsylvania stacks up against other states, analysts at the financial literacy site WalletHub ran the numbers to rank the states with the most and least powerful voters in this very consequential midterm cycle.

The list was derived “by calculating the number of elected officials in the federal government per adult population in each state for the most recent election years. We also conducted year-over-year comparisons of the same calculations,” WalletHub’s analysts noted.

Below, a look at the top five most and least powerful states, and a look at how the Commonwealth stacked up — along with some expert analysis by Capital-Star opinion contributor Fletcher McClellan.

Source: WalletHub

The top 5 states with the most powerful voters:

1. Wyoming

2. Vermont

3. North Dakota

4. Alaska 

5. South Dakota

In this case, less is more, according to WalletHub. Because these smaller states have less population, their voters have incrementally larger voices than voters in big states, analysts noted.

Clout by state

The top 5 states with the least powerful voters: 

1. Arizona

2. Ohio

3. California 

4. Wisconsin

5. New York

You’ll note there are some key swing states here — Arizona, Ohio, and Wisconsin, who each have been determinative in recent presidential and midterm cycles.

The same rule as above, according to WalletHub, has primacy: Voters in states with smaller populations are incrementally closer to their elected representatives — even if some of the states mentioned above speak more loudly in electoral cycles.

“Although the U.S. gives all citizens age 18 or older the right to vote (aside from felons in most states), ballots carry different weights based on the state in which one lives,” WalletHub’s analysts wrote. “Take California, for instance. Its estimated population is over 68 times greater than Wyoming’s, yet each state has two seats in the Senate. In this case, less is more: California’s votes are weakened exponentially because each of its senators must represent tens of millions more residents.”

Voters line up at a polling place on Election Day. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Pennsylvania, another key swing state, and one that could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill in the next Congress, finished 44th overall in the WalletHub rankings.

But the state, with a nationally watched U.S. Senate campaign in the race between Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and television physician Mehmet Oz, finished 38th overall when measured by its U.S. Senate delegation, and 7th based on its U.S. House delegation.

“The Senate over-represents rural states ridiculously. Born of compromise at the Constitutional Convention when the nation’s total population was less than 4 million, the Senate today gives the 600,000 people of Wyoming the same representation as the 40 million people of California,” Capital-Star opinion contributor Fletcher McClellan told WalletHub’s analysts. “Taken together with the filibuster, this furthers minority rule in Congress.

“Furthermore, it is not often considered that states and state boundaries are political creations,” McClellan continued. “Why are the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, both with populations larger than several states, not admitted as states? It comes down to partisan advantage. D.C. and [Puerto Rico] would almost certainly give Democrats four more Senate seats.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.