Census Data to Add Clout to Republican-Leaning States

Arizona Senator John McCain
Of the eight states that may gain at least one seat, five were won by Arizona Senator John McCain when he was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Republican strongholds in the U.S. South and West are poised to gain political power in time for the 2012 presidential election, taking electoral votes away from states Barack Obama carried in 2008, new population data is likely to show.

The U.S. Census Bureau releases 2010 state population totals tomorrow, and the information will be used to reallocate many of the 435 U.S. House seats and provide a fresh look at America for demographers, planners and business.

Gains in the South and West will come at the expense of the Northeast and Midwest, which stand to lose as many as 10 seats in the U.S. House. Texas could be the biggest winner, with projections suggesting a gain of four seats, while Ohio could be the biggest loser with a possible loss of two.

“This will help Republicans in the House,” said Andrew Smith, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. “The states that are gaining are primarily Republican states, and Republicans are much more likely to win those new seats.”

Nine states are projected to lose representatives and eight are likely to gain, according to a Bloomberg forecast that used 2008 and 2009 population estimates to predict 2010 populations for each state. That’s similar to a projection from Election Data Services Inc., a consulting firm based in Manassas, Virginia, that expects 18 states will see their number of representatives change.

Winners and Losers

Besides Texas, other potential winners are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington, the Bloomberg analysis shows. Probable losers are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio.

The scope of the reapportionment would be the smallest since 1970 if just 17 states see a gain or loss. That’s a reflection of slower migration in recent years triggered by the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Nevada, which is projected to gain one seat, was the nation’s fastest-growing state for much of the past decade, before its growth was stunted by the recession. The state had the highest foreclosure filing rate for the 47th straight month in November, at one in every 99 households, five times the national average, according to RealtyTrac Inc.

New Look

The latest state population counts will mark the start of a new look at America. The census data will be used by the government to distribute more than $400 billion in annual federal funding, by businesses to identify markets, and by social scientists to examine the changing demographics.

Tomorrow’s release will include only population counts. More detailed data on race, ethnicity, housing and other variables will gradually be provided, beginning in February, for all levels of geography, from neighborhoods to states.

Congressional seats are reapportioned every decade after completion of the census, with each district to have roughly the same number of people. After the 2000 Census, each member was supposed to represent about 647,000 people, which will now increase to reflect the nation’s growth.

Electoral Votes

The reapportionment will also alter electoral vote calculations. A state’s Electoral College vote is the sum of its House seats, plus its two Senate seats. That could provide assistance to Republicans as they prepare to oppose an Obama re-election bid.

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, discounted the importance of the potential shift, telling reporters today that the movements wouldn’t represent a dramatic change in presidential politics.

“I don’t think shifting some seats from one area of the country to another necessarily marks a concern that you can’t make a politically potent argument in those new places,” he said.

Of the eight states that may gain at least one seat, five were won by Arizona Senator John McCain when he was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. Obama carried eight of the nine states most likely to lose seats, including New York and Ohio. The only McCain-voting state in this group is Louisiana, which is projected to lose one of its seven seats, after residents fled from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

The state counts will include residents, plus military and federal civilian employees and their dependents from that state who are living outside the U.S. The populations of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are excluded from the apportionment totals because they don’t have voting seats in the U.S. House.

Possible Surprises

Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, said there will probably be at least a few surprises when the data is released. He also said it’s “very likely” the states closest to the cutoff for losing a seat will file lawsuits.

“In the past, they have been generally unsuccessful,” he said.

The biggest loser for total seats could be Ohio, which has played a pivotal economic and political role for two centuries. It is the birthplace of seven presidents and a core member of the nation’s manufacturing heartland, producing automobiles, rubber, steel and glass.

Since January 2000, Ohio has lost 409,000 manufacturing jobs -- a 40 percent drop -- Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.

Shifting Employers

Ohio’s industrial heritage has taken a back seat to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Kroger Co. and the Cleveland Clinic, the state’s three largest employers, according to the Ohio Department of Development. General Motors Co., once a major employer in the state, ranks 23rd.

As jobs moved out, the state’s political influence began to slide. Ohio had 24 members in its congressional delegation in 1972. Today, it has 18, and that number is projected to drop again this time.

“It’s all about votes and power,” said Ned Hill, an economist and dean of the college of urban affairs at Cleveland State University. “Ohio and the Midwest are going to be at a huge competitive disadvantage.”

Traditional voting behavior has worked against most northern states, Hill said.

“The North has never had the same levels of seniority as the South,” Hill said, referring to members of Congress. “We tend to vote ours out more frequently. That meant the political power in the Midwest and Northeast was based more on the sheer numbers of representatives.”

Boehner Advantage

For at least the 2011-12 congressional term, Ohio will have the advantage of Representative John Boehner, a native son and the presumed Speaker of the House in the new session.

New York, which lost two seats in 2000, is projected to lose ground in the House for the seventh consecutive reapportionment, dropping from 29 seats to 27 or 28, the Bloomberg analysis shows.

As recently as the 1940 reapportionment, New York had 45 seats. If the state drops to 27, it will have as small a House delegation as it had in 1810.

The loss of a seat in Pennsylvania would mark the ninth consecutive reapportionment where it has lost.

The potential gain of four seats for Texas would be the biggest jump in the state’s representation since it went from six to 11 seats in the 1880 reapportionment.

Florida will probably gain one or more seats for the 11th consecutive reapportionment, while Arizona is likely to gain at least one seat for the sixth time in a row.

If California doesn’t win an additional House seat, it would mark the first time in state history that it wouldn’t gain representation. The nation’s largest state now has 53 seats.

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