By Jim Ellis
Dec. 23, 2020 — With the Census Bureau readying the national apportionment formula to present to the Clerk of the House at some point next month, it is a reasonable time to again look at the states projected to lose congressional districts and begin to determine where a dragging population could cost a region its current representation.
Today, we look at four states projected to lose a district: Alabama, California, Michigan, and Minnesota. Tomorrow, we will examine Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Rhode Island and West Virginia are also going to lose seats but because they are two- and three-district states, the new redistricting map becomes obvious, particularly in the former’s case.
The Alabama population suggests that it is too small to keep its seventh congressional district, but such makes the remaining six districts very large, likely well over population figures of 800,000 residents apiece. It is an ironic problem for the states losing districts in that the remaining CDs actually become much larger. If Alabama is on the losing end in final reapportionment, the scenario of dropping a district and making the remaining seats much larger will certainly come to pass.
As with all redistricting, those in a corner of a state, i.e., either bordered by another state, body of water, or country are in the best shape because their districts can only expand or contract one or two ways. In Alabama, the 1st and 5th CDs, those of incoming Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) and Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) are in the most favorable geographic positions.
The district appearing to lose the most population is Rep. Terri Sewell’s (D-Birmingham) 7th CD, but this is a protected Civil Rights district meaning it must be protected. The seat could need to gain almost 150,000 people according to rudimentary calculations, and the most likely place for the increase comes from Montgomery County at the expense of the 2nd District and possibly the 3rd.
The 2nd District, even when bordered by states on two sides, appears the most vulnerable to collapse. Needing to likely gain over 140,000 individuals before almost certainly losing population to the current 7th District, the collapsing of the 2nd and 3rd Districts into one seat appears to be a potential outcome. This would place incoming freshman Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) and veteran Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Anniston) in the same district.
For the first time in history, California looks to lose congressional representation. In the last census, the state remained constant for the first time. In every previous census apportionment, the Golden State had gained representation. In the 1980 census, for example, California gained seven new congressional districts. Now, it appears they will reduce representation from 53 to 52 seats, but still be the most populous state by a wide stretch.
The region not keeping up with the rate of growth appears to occur in the southern California expanse from Bakersfield through Los Angeles County and portions of Riverside, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties. Such a region covers 18 congressional districts, 16 of which will need to gain population under a rudimentary calculation suggesting that each of the state’s 52 CDs will require approximately 760,000 residents. Of the 18 districts, Democrats represent 15 and Republicans’ three.
Only two of these 18 districts, those of Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Norma Torres (D-Pomona), are either at or slightly over the approximated population goal.
The areas looking to gain the most population are the northern San Fernando Valley, southeastern Los Angeles County, and parts of Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties. This latter area is likely solved because two other Riverside County districts, those of Reps. Ken Calvert (R-Corona) and Mark Takano (D-Riverside) are over-populated. In fact, Calvert’s 42nd District is the most over-populated in the state and will need to shed approximately 80,000 people.
The southeastern LA County region is likely saved because it contains minority districts. Therefore, the most vulnerable area to a seat loss is likely the northern San Fernando Valley. This area also holds the seat needing to gain the most population, that of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank/Glendale), which appears to require well over 65,000 residents to qualify as a district.
For the third consecutive census, Michigan appears to be on the losing end, and will likely drop from 14 to 13 congressional districts. In the last census, the state actually lost population. That isn’t the case this time, but they still are not keeping pace with the rate of growth. As a result, all of the remaining 13 districts will need to gain population.
The two Detroit minority districts need large influx of population. Since they are in the southeastern corner of the state, these districts can only move northward. The district seemingly in the worst position from a geographic standpoint and one that needs a great deal more people is Rep. John Moolenaar’s (R-Midland) 4th District.
It appears this seat will require at least 65,000 more residents, fifth highest in the state in terms of population increase, and the other CDs around the seat, also needing more people and which are bordered by bodies of water, countries, or states, can only gain from his area. Therefore, the likelihood of Rep. Moolenaar finding himself paired with another Republican incumbent is high.
In the last census, Minnesota held its 8th District by just 15,000 people. This time, the state looks to have enough population only for seven CDs. As with the other losing small states, the remaining districts will all have to add population.
The two needing the most people will be the northern 7th and 8th CDs, those that incoming freshman Michelle Fischbach (R) and Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Hermantown/ Duluth) represent. Each will likely need approximately 135,000 more residents to meet the rudimentary determined population goal of 805,000. A pairing here appears probable. Geography does help both of the districts, however, because both have borders with countries or states.
This report’s entire analysis is based upon educated speculation because there are many ways to craft CD boundaries once redistricting begins after the apportionment numbers are released. Therefore, much of this outlook is subject to great change.