Texas Gains House Seats, N.Y. Loses as Census Hands Edge to GOP
(Bloomberg) -- Texas will gain two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives under new Census numbers released Monday, while states in the Northeast and Midwest will lose seven in a shift of political clout to Republican strongholds before the 2022 midterms.
The Census numbers showed the U.S. population grew much more slowly than expected, with fewer people migrating to the South and West than earlier projections.
The result was an extraordinarily close battle for the last congressional seat, with New York losing one of its 27 House members by just 89 people, Census officials said.
The bureau’s release of its decennial count of state populations begins the process of reshuffling the 435 House seats among the 50 states to account for population changes over the last decade.
Those changes alone could be enough to decide the balance of power: Democrats hold a narrow advantage in the House now, with a margin of fewer than half a dozen seats.
The states gaining seats are largely ones that former President Donald Trump won in 2020, while states President Joe Biden won -- including the so-called “Blue Wall” states of the industrial North -- are losers.
Texas will gain two seats. Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will also each gain one seat each.
Because the size of the House has been capped since 1911, those new seats must come at the expense of seven states: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
And because the Electoral College factors in House representation, those states will lose influence in the 2024 presidential vote as well.
At just 7.4%, the 2010s saw the second-slowest growth rate in the nation’s history, just ahead of the 7.3% growth of the 1930s, during the Great Depression. The total U.S. population as of April 1, 2020 was 331,449,281.
And state-to-state migration is also slower than at any time since World War II. That means fewer congressional seats will be redistributed than at any time since Congress refused to allow reapportionment following the 1920 census.
Texas had been expected to gain three seats and Florida two, and Arizona was also expected to gain a seat based on the Census Bureau’s own annual estimates. Acting Census Director Ron Jarmin attributed that difference to slower-than-expected growth, but officials said the discrepancy was within 1%.
Alabama, Minnesota and Rhode Island were projected to lose seats but were spared a cut in the final numbers. Minnesota gained the seat New York lost.
The average House seat will now represent 761,169 people, up from 710,767 from 2010.
The Census Bureau sent questionnaires out in March 2020, just as the national lockdowns began, asking people to say where they lived by April 1. New York bore the brunt of coronavirus deaths early in the pandemic.
California, while still the most populous state, will lose a congressional seat for the first time since it joined the Union in 1850. Montana will have two representatives for the first time since the 1980s.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment, but a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City did its part and blamed the state government.
Blair Horner, executive director of New York Public Interest Group, expressed relief that New York hadn’t lost two seats as it has for the last eight Census counts.
Some states, like New York, or interest groups might seek to challenge the count, given that it was conducted during a devastating public health crisis and amid Trump’s unsuccessful attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count and add a citizenship question.
But a challenge to the numbers used would be “extremely uphill and difficult,” said Jeffrey Wice, an expert on redistricting, voting rights and census law. States, cities and civil rights groups have filed court challenges to reapportionment in the past, but the U.S. Supreme Court has uniformly rejected them, he said.
“It’s very hard to challenge the Census Bureau over congressional reapportionment,” Wice added.
A group of Democrats who focus on election issues, Democracy Docket, said Monday night that it had sued three states to force them to abandon their old congressional maps and enact ones they consider “fairly and constitutionally distributed.” The suits were filed in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Louisiana.
There is one bright spot for Democrats, as demographic changes also mean that Republican bastions such as Texas are becoming more competitive, putting the party closer to its long-term goal of someday moving the Lone Star state back into the Democratic column.
By September, the Census Bureau will release data that shows the shifting populations within states, helping them in redrawing their congressional district maps. That promises to set off contentious debates in states where partisan legislators draw the district lines.
The release of the top-level apportionment data Monday was four months behind schedule, as the coronavirus pandemic hit just when the Census Bureau was beginning the constitutionally required national head count.
The delayed start could create added chaos at the filing deadlines for next year’s congressional elections, as incumbents and their challengers won’t know which districts they’re running for until their campaigns have already started.
It could also help force some House members to retire or run for higher office. On Monday, Representative Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat, announced plans to run for the U.S. Senate after conceding that the new maps will make it harder for his Youngstown-area House district to stay in his party’s hands.
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