By Jim Ellis
Jan. 3, 2020 — The Census Bureau just released its new population growth estimates for the 12-month period between July 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019. Their data allows us to assess just which states will likely gain and lose congressional districts in 2020 reapportionment, both in terms of the real numbers just presented and for projecting the final count once the decade’s final-year patterns are calculated and the census is actually conducted.
The national population growth rate was analyzed to be 0.5 percent, down from the peak period of the decade, the July 1, 2014 through July 1, 2015 time segment, when the growth factor reached 0.73 percent. The population patterns of movement to the south and west continue, with the northeast actually seeing a population decrease during the aforementioned reported 12-month period that ended on July 1. The Midwest is not keeping up with the national rate of growth, either, but not losing overall population.
Ten states actually lost population during the reported period, led by West Virginia’s 0.7 percent drop. Alaska declined by 0.5 percent, with New York and Illinois each losing 0.4 percent. Hawaii dropped by 0.3 percent, Connecticut, Louisiana and Mississippi 0.2 percent, and Vermont (0.1 percent). New Jersey is the tenth population reduction state, but it lost only 3,835 people from a population of more than 8.9 million individuals for a 0.0004 percent decrease.
The fastest growing states at this point in the decade are Idaho (2.1 percent since July 1, 2010), Nevada, Arizona, and Utah (all at 1.7 percent increase during the same period), Texas and South Carolina (1.3 percent), Washington and Colorado (1.2 percent), Florida (1.1 percent), and North Carolina (1.0 percent).
Looking at the raw data through July 1, it appears that Texas will gain two US House seats, while Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon each add one.
Factoring in the apportionment formula and further growth rate for the second half of 2019 and through April of 2020, it appears Texas would gain a third seat and Florida a second. The remaining gainers would continue to add one member to their state congressional delegations.
The most surprising projection among those states slated to lose seats is the inclusion of California within this group. During the 12-month period, the state’s population grew 0.35 percent according to the Census Bureau figures, while the nation increased 0.5 percent. It also became apparent that more people left the state than re-located there. And, once again we see the recurring pattern from the immediate past reapportionment cycle that the states around California gain seats while the Golden State delegation remains constant or now apparently falls.
The other states projected to lose one seat apiece are Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. When extrapolating forward to account for the remainder of 2019 and through the 2020 census period, the projections suggest that Alabama and Ohio will also lose one seat apiece.
If these figures ultimately prove correct, a net 10 seats would switch states and these numbers suggest that the Republicans would benefit slightly at the presidential level. If the new projections were in effect for the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump, the GOP nominee, would have gained a net two electoral votes in the states he carried as a result of Electoral College realignment.
Oftentimes, surprises come at the end of the decade that slightly alter actual reapportionment when compared to pre-census projections. Therefore, the aforementioned projections are not to be considered wholly accurate, but they do provide us a reasonable estimate as to where the new seats will fall, while also identifying which states are trending toward a reduction in congressional representation.