Projecting Apportionment

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 7, 2018 — New population growth numbers are now available from the Census Bureau, allowing us to gain more clues about how the coming 2020 post-census apportionment might look for the nation’s congressional districts.

Every 10 years, states gain and lose CDs based upon their total population and percentage growth figures. The current US population of 327,774,453 represents a growth rate of 5.96 percent when compared to 2010.

Currently, Idaho is the fastest growing state for 2018, with a gain of 2.15 percent for the current year, the only state to break the two percent barrier for the period. Nevada (1.96 percent), Utah (1.85 percent), Washington (1.69 percent), and Florida (1.56 percent) round out the top five.

The group constituting the bottom half of the top 10 in 2018 growth contains Arizona (1.53 percent), Texas (1.41 percent), Colorado (1.37 percent), Oregon (1.37 percent), and South Carolina (1.28 percent).

On the other hand, eight states, led by Wyoming (-0.97 percent), actually lost population during the year. The others are West Virginia, Illinois, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Louisiana, and North Dakota.

The big gainers for the decade are Utah (14.31 percent), Texas (14.15 percent), Florida (13.35 percent), Nevada (13.19 percent), and Colorado (13.02 percent). Previous projections suggested that Texas and Florida would gain more than one seat for the decade while Colorado would increase their delegation size to eight seats, up from their current seven.

Though Utah and Nevada continue to be big gainers, it is highly unusual for small states to add or lose seats in consecutive decades. Since both Utah and Nevada gained a seat in the 2010 census, it would be unlikely for them to gain again, and current projections would suggest they won’t, even though the pair are among the highest states in decade percentage growth rate.

Three states actually have less people than they did in 2010. West Virginia (-2.69 percent), Illinois (-0.49 percent), and Vermont (-0.28 percent) are seeing their real population figures decline. Both West Virginia and Illinois are sure to lose congressional representation in 2020, with Illinois on the cusp of potentially losing two seats. Since Vermont is already an at-large state, they cannot go any lower.

Twenty states are above the national growth average for the decade, meaning 30 are below. Minnesota, which held its eighth congressional seat by just 15,000 people in 2010, was looking to be a sure loser for 2020 and still will likely be, but placing 20th in population growth again puts them only on the cusp of losing with another full year still remaining in the decade.

Pennsylvania is the only big state to gain less than one percentage point in decade population growth, advancing by only 0.96 percent. Ohio is the other big state within the top 10 in losing population, placing 40th on the growth chart. Along with Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York (34th in growth at 2.50 percent increase), Ohio will again lose a seat in the next reapportionment.

Consistent with early predictions, it appears Texas will gain at least two and possibly three seats; Florida appears set to gain two. The one-seat gainers will likely be Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, and North Carolina, with Montana on the cusp of gaining.

The losing states look to be West Virginia, Illinois, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Minnesota with Alabama on the cusp of losing.

The national algorithm formula to determine reapportionment was largely conceived because of Montana and Rhode Island. Both states are in position to have either the single largest congressional district or the two smallest. Again, both states are almost even in current population despite their drastic difference in land area. Montana now has 1,062,330 people, according to the census, while Rhode Island possesses 1,061,712 individuals. At this point, it appears both will be at-large states, which means Montana will not gain and Rhode Island will lose one of its current two seats.

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