Approaching Reapportionment

Even with the new Congress being officially installed today, it is still not too early to begin looking toward future elections.

Though reapportionment and redistricting are still six years away, some definitive population patterns are present. If the trends continue, we could gain early knowledge about which states may be gaining and losing congressional districts based upon the future 2020 census. Such information will certainly affect how politics plays out in these affected states during the remainder of the decade.

The Census Bureau just announced its year-end totals for 2014, and we find a United States total population of 318.9 million people, the third highest country total in the world, but far behind second place India’s 1.2 billion inhabitants.

Of note, the 2014 year-end report confirmed a domestic trend that had been building for many years, that of Florida moving into third place over New York in terms of state aggregate population. North Carolina also surpassed Michigan to become the ninth largest US state.

The fastest growing states during the past year, in terms of raw number, are not particularly surprising. Texas, which gained four seats in the 2010 reapportionment, again leads the nation in new residents. California, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona are next in order.

But, those gaining the greatest population percentage is a different list. North Dakota increased its overall resident total by more than two percent in 2014, and is tops in the nation in that category. The other fast growers, in order, are Nevada, Texas, and Colorado. Both Nevada and Texas have been consistent gainers: Texas since the 1940 census; Nevada post-1990. This is particularly significant for Nevada because it is harder for the small states to both gain and lose representation under the national reapportionment formula. In 1970, Nevada had one at-large seat; today, the state has four times the number of congressional districts.

The list of population losers is a familiar one, as well. Several states actually retracted in 2014: West Virginia, Illinois, Connecticut, New Mexico, Alaska, and Vermont.

Clark Benson’s Polidata firm also released a year-end statistical report, and it is here where we find some insight as to which states may gain or lose congressional seats. Right now, it appears that four states will change. It is a virtual certainty that North Carolina will gain at least one seat and that Minnesota will drop one. It is also a cinch that Texas will gain multiple seats and Pennsylvania will again lose.

The Keystone State has lost more representation than any state in the country. Losing another in 2020 will mean the state will have fewer Representatives than it did when Thomas Jefferson was President. In 1910, Pennsylvania had 36 congressional districts. If they lose again in 2020, they will drop to seventeen.

According to Polidata, the early trends suggest that Texas would gain three more seats in 2020, with Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Oregon each adding one. The losing states would be: Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia. Pennsylvania has lost seats in every census since 1910; New York every census post-1950; Ohio since 1970; and consecutively from 1980 in relation to Illinois. Michigan, the only state to actually lose real population in the 2010 census, has lost seats consecutively since 1990.

But, more than half the decade remains, and much will change between now and the time of the next apportionment release at the end of 2020. In the last census, a dozen seats changed states. Right now, the early data portends a switch of nine seats, but that number will likely expand if past and current trends are any indication.

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