/Census Shows South and Mountain West Gain Political Power From Population Growth

Census Shows South and Mountain West Gain Political Power From Population Growth

Political power in the U.S. will shift further to states in the South and Mountain West—with Texas picking up two House seats and California losing one—as the country’s overall population growth slowed to the lowest rate since the Great Depression, the Census Bureau said Monday.

Thirteen states will gain or lose seats in the House of Representatives in next year’s elections through the once-a-decade reapportionment required by the Constitution. They will also lose or gain votes in the Electoral College beginning in 2024.

Besides the double gain for Texas, five states will gain one seat each: Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon. Seven states will lose one each: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The allocation is based on a formula set in a 1941 law.

The changes are expected to favor Republicans because red-leaning states are gaining more seats on net, and because the GOP has more control in redrawing the new congressional maps.

Overall, the U.S. population grew 7.4% in the past decade, according to the Census Bureau. The population reached 331,449,281 on April 1, 2020.

Change in population from 2010

States that gain one seat

States that lose one seat

States that lose one seat

States that gain one seat

States that gain one seat

States that lose one seat

States that gain one seat

States that lose one seat

The electoral shifts reflect the decade’s broad population shifts: slow growth in the Northeast and Midwest, and gains in the South and some Western states. The South grew 10.2%, more than twice the rate of the Northeast or the Midwest. U.S. growth fell from 9.7% in the previous decade and was the slowest since a gain of 7.3% in the 1930s.

The decade saw Florida top New York in population, and Nevada grow larger than Arkansas, Mississippi and Kansas. The fastest-growing states were Utah (18.4%), Idaho (17.3%) and Texas (15.9%).

Three states lost population, the most since the 1980s, led by West Virginia, which lost 3.2%. Mississippi dropped 0.2% and Illinois dropped 0.1%. The census also showed that Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, lost 11.8% of its population, falling to 3.29 million.

The census, because it is pegged to April 1, 2020, doesn’t reflect most of the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on the population. Since then, the U.S. has seen half a million more deaths than in recent years, a birthrate that dropped to a record low and slowing immigration.

California lost a seat for the first time since it became a state in 1850. New York failed to hold on to its lost seat by the narrowest of margins. According to Census calculations, just 89 more people—in addition to more than 20.2 million who were counted—would have given New York the 435th seat and resulted in Minnesota losing a seat.

The release of the reapportionment data is expected to trigger a wave of decisions from lawmakers to run statewide or retire, as well as nudge wavering candidates to jump into races.

Beginning in August, the Census Bureau plans to release detailed population counts that state legislatures and commissions will use to redraw congressional and legislative districts to balance their populations, as required by law. Local officials will do the same in many cities and counties. That data will also be used to guide federal funding, private investment decisions and analyses of everything from segregation to suburban sprawl.

Because the data release has been delayed, some states with strict legal deadlines to finish redistricting have begun the process using other population data. Others will compress their redistricting schedules, adjust election schedules or both.

Republicans will be in charge of drawing new maps in 187 congressional districts this year, compared with 75 for Democrats, down from the GOP’s 219-44 advantage a decade ago, according to the Cook Political Report. The other seats are in states where power is split, a commission is in charge of the maps or the states have only a single House seat.

“The reapportionment itself offers a very slight advantage to Republicans, but not nearly as large as their power to draw the maps,” said David Wasserman, House editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. He also said the exact outcome in some states is uncertain.

The data released Monday surprised lawmakers and political experts, with Texas and Florida gaining fewer seats than expected.

“It’s still more promising for Republicans than Democrats,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) said in an interview Monday. Democrats currently hold a 218-212 House majority, and that razor-thin margin gives both parties more incentive to push for politically favorable maps. “It could be a tougher fight because people are more prepared for it,” he said.

Republicans control Texas’ Legislature and governor’s office and are expected to try to redraw some Hispanic districts where former President

Donald Trump

gained in popularity last fall to benefit the GOP. Democrats have said that much of the growth comes from Latino, Black, younger and suburban voters, who have been leaning Democratic, particularly around Dallas, Houston and Austin. Democrats have said that they will press for maps that reflect changing demographics.

The pandemic slowed census response and set off waves of migration that complicated the effort to count where every American was living on April 1. Counting had to be extended into the hurricane and wildfire seasons, when large evacuations further disrupted operations. A follow-up survey to analyze census undercounting and double-counting won’t be completed until late this year.

Despite the nation’s slowing growth, projections by the Census Bureau and the United Nations show it is expected to continue growing at least through the middle of the century, approaching 400 million people by 2060. By comparison, the populations of Japan and many European countries have begun to shrink, including those of Germany, Poland, Portugal and Russia. China’s population is expected to peak before 2030.

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