Apportionment Surprises

By Jim Ellis

April 28, 2021 — In virtually every 10-year apportionment announcement at least one surprise occurs, but the census unveiling Monday contained multiple blockbusters.

For example, two states had their final number of congressional districts determined by less than 90 people. Reportedly, if New York had just had 89 more people, that would have saved an Empire State congressional seat. Minnesota becomes the beneficiary allowing the state to barely hold its eighth district.

Instead of 10 seats changing states as had been forecast, only seven, affecting 13 domains, switched. Perhaps the main reason for the lower number is the decade population growth rate. According to yesterday’s final report, the nation grew at only a 7.4 percent rate, the lowest since the 1930 census’s 7.3 percent. By contrast, the population increase from the 2010 total was 9.7 percent.

Pre-census projections, for better than a year, had been predicting that Texas would gain three seats, Florida two, and Arizona one. The analysts also estimated seat losses for Alabama, Minnesota, and Rhode Island. None of these projections proved accurate.

On the other hand, prognostications for the balance of the map were accurate. Texas, and Florida did gain, but two and one, respectively, instead of three and two seats. Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon each added one district apiece as expected. The one-seat losers were California, for the first time in history, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

It’s a bit too soon to determine which party will benefit the most from these numbers at the congressional level, though Republicans should be up slightly in the Electoral College for the next presidential campaign. Once we see how the population is distributed within the states will better tell us whether Democrats or Republicans will take the most advantage of the apportionment. This will depend upon how the population spreads through the cities, suburbs, and rural regions.

At the presidential level, the gaining states should deliver a net three for the GOP, based upon the 2020 national result. Republican Donald Trump carried Texas, Florida, Montana, and North Carolina, while Democrat Joe Biden won in Colorado and Oregon.

In the losing states, Democrats would lose one electoral vote apiece in California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania, while the GOP drops EVs in Ohio and West Virginia. The losing group also favors the Republicans by a net of three votes, meaning a net swing of six electoral votes if the state voting patterns were to remain constant for the 2024 presidential election.

A total of 20 states exceeded the national mean average of 7.4 percent growth. The median average is 6.1 percent. These numbers include the District of Columbia but not Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, severe population loss occurred, down 11.8 percent from the beginning of the decade. This is largely due to the damage the horrific 2017 Hurricane Maria inflicted that paralyzed the island and disabled significant infrastructure.

The states with the most robust growth rates are Utah (18.4 percent) and Idaho (17.3 percent). Those with more than 15 percent growth, in addition to the aforementioned, are Texas (15.9 percent), North Dakota (15.8 percent), and Nevada (15.0 percent). Despite the strong growth rates within this group, only Texas gained seats again underscoring that the apportionment formula makes it easier for the bigger states to both gain and lose CDs.

Three states actually have less people in the 2020 census than in 2010. They are: Illinois (-0.1% percent), Mississippi (-0.2 percent), and West Virginia (-3.2 percent).

The apportionment release is four months overdue and considering previous announcements that the states won’t receive their data until Sept. 30 at the earliest, legislators and redistricting commission members will be under difficult time restraints to complete their map re-mapping tasks before the 2022 primary season begins. At the very least, the Texas and Illinois March primaries are very much in danger of being postponed and other early primary states could meet the same fate.

Now that apportionment is released, we will soon be able to better analyze the redistricting cycle and can do so in the coming days.

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