Census Data Shed Light on 2020 Redistricting

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Census Data Shed Light on 2020 Redistricting
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If you’re a normal person, you’re walking around right now enjoying the holiday spirit.  If you’re a numbers geek, you’re enjoying the latest census report, which gives updated population estimates for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

This is important because the census governs the apportionment of House seats and electoral votes by way of a nasty formula that I won’t expound upon here.  By applying the formula to the latest estimates, we can get a sense of where things are headed for the 2022 congressional elections and the 2024 presidential elections.

These take on added urgency because, while previous estimates have been necessarily speculative, by this point in the decade it becomes very difficult to significantly change things.  With six years’ worth of population growth baked in, it’s unlikely that the trajectory of population growth/loss will change enough to radically alter the projections.

So where are we?  If reapportionment were done today, the following states would gain or lose seats:

Florida: +1 (to 28)
Illinois: -1 (to 17)
Michigan -1 (to 13)
Minnesota -1 (to 7)
North Carolina +1 (to 14)
Oregon +1 (to 6)
Pennsylvania -1 (to 17)
Texas +1 (to 37)

But of course,  reapportionment won’t be held today.  So, to project these things forward, I’ve taken the average population growth in each state since 2010, multiplied by four, then added that to the current estimate.  In the past, I’ve also tried a weighted average (which ascribes more importance to recent population trends), but now you actually end up with the exact same estimate (underscoring how difficult it is to change the trajectory at this point). Given those factors, this is where we could end up in terms of reapportionment for 2020:

Alabama: -1 (to 6)
Arizona: +1 (to 10)
Colorado: +1 (to 8)
Florida: +2 (to 29)
Illinois: -1 (to 17)
Michigan: -1 (to 13)
Minnesota: -1 (to 7)
New York: -1 (to 26)
North Carolina: +1 (to 14)
Ohio: -1 (to 15)
Oregon: +1 (to 6)
Pennsylvania: -1 (to 17)
Rhode Island: -1 (to 1)
Texas: +3 (to 39)
West Virginia: -1 (to 2)

As part of the census formula, each state is automatically given one House seat. Seats 51 through 435 are given a numerical ranking and assigned to states based on their populations via the census data. For example, in the 2000 rankings, North Carolina got the last seat up for grabs (No. 435) while Utah would have gotten the next seat – No. 436, if it existed. (The census numbers House seats up to 440. Utah sued over the results but lost the case, allowing North Carolina to keep the seat).

So, if you are looking at how things might reasonably change between now and 2020, here would be the last five seats awarded:

Illinois to 16 seats (No. 431)
California to 53 seats (No. 432)
Texas to 39 seats (No. 433)
Arizona to 10 seats (No. 434)
Florida to 29 seats (No. 435)

In other words, Florida, Arizona and Texas are “on the bubble” for their 29th, 10th, and 39th seats, while California is close to losing a seat, while Illinois is close to losing a second seat. With some relatively minor changes in population growth patterns, we could easily see one of them fail to win these seats. If one of these states does miss the projection, who could benefit?  Seat Nos. 436-440 are projected to be: Montana 2 (436), Alabama 7 (437), California 54 (438), Minnesota 8 (439) and Virginia 12 (440).  So we could see Montana gain back the seat that it lost after the 1990 census.

Overall, this represents very little change in the Electoral College.  While the apportionment shifts are to states controlled by Republican legislatures (for now), it would probably benefit Democrats overall, as it is pretty difficult to eliminate any more Democratic seats in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, while states like Texas and Florida would probably have to draw at least some Democratic-leaning districts.

Sean Trende is senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics. He is a co-author of the 2014 Almanac of American Politics and author of The Lost Majority. He can be reached at strende@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeanTrende.

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