Early Gaining and Losing

Though reapportionment only happens once every decade anchored to the new census, the gaining or losing of congressional districts for individual states clearly affects delegation politics almost unceasingly.*

The Census Bureau just recently released new population growth figures, based upon July 1, 2013 data, that gives us a very early look into which states may be headed for reapportionment changes in 2020. The projection process occurs throughout the 10-year period and very often the early numbers do not correctly reflect end-of-the-decade trends, so predicting now with any certainty how the population formula will unfold in late 2020 is highly speculative.

That being the case, the new growth numbers suggest that Texas will again gain multiple seats – at this point two – and Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Virginia appear headed for one-seat additions. Offsetting these increases are again New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio, with Rhode Island and West Virginia coming into the picture as new losing states. Rhode Island, if they do forfeit a seat, would recede to at-large status. West Virginia would reduce from three to two districts.

There are other interesting asides. California, because of its size, can experience wild swings when under the reapportionment formula. Even in 2010 itself, it was unclear if the state would gain a seat, stay the same, or even lose one. In the end, the California congressional delegation remained constant at 53 members. Already, between 2010 and July of 2013, it seemed the state would gain a district in 2020, but now it appears to again be remaining constant. It is not out of the realm of future possibility for the nation’s most populous state to actually lose a district.

With 1.005 million people, the at-large Montana seat is the nation’s largest single congressional district. Montana is always in a situation of possessing either the largest at-large seat, or the smallest two districts. It appears their early decade growth rate suggests the latter scenario.

You may remember that Minnesota saved its eighth congressional district by just 15,000 people in 2010. Though it appears now to be remaining intact, the state is a clear candidate for delegation reduction in 2020. North Carolina, which would have been the beneficiary of Minnesota losing, is sure to gain at least one and will most probably add two seats considering how close they were to expanding in the last census.

It would also not be surprising to see multiple seat gains, rivaling their 2010 performance, in Texas and possibly Florida. Georgia and Arizona, two fast growing states that have gained seats in each of the last two reapportionments, could again add more representation for their growing states.

Though we are still a long way from conducting the next census, reapportionment and redistricting politics continue to be a factor in American political life. Later this month, redistricting cases will venture into court rooms in North Carolina and Arizona. Thanks to a Florida Supreme Court ruling late in 2013, the lawsuit challenging the Sunshine State congressional and legislative boundaries will also likely come to trial at some point in the latter part of this new year.

*To review the 2010 reapportionment formula, 12 seats changed states. Texas was the big gainer, adding four districts to its delegation, while Florida was awarded a pair; New York and Ohio were the multiple district losers, each dropping two seats. Perennial losers Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois again saw their delegations recede by one district apiece.

Other states losing representation were Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri and New Jersey. Conversely, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Utah, South Carolina and Washington each grew by a seat.

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