Northeast, Midwest to Lose Clout, Texas Gains as U.S. Redraws House Seats
The Northeast and Midwest are poised to lose as many as 10 seats in Congress, while Texas could gain four after the U.S. Census Bureau releases reapportionment data later this month, a Bloomberg analysis and other data shows.
Nine states are projected to lose representatives to the U.S. House and eight are likely to gain, according to the Bloomberg forecast, which used 2008 and 2009 population estimates to predict 2010 populations for each state.
The release of state population counts in December’s last week will mark the start of a fresh statistical look at America through 2010 census data.
The information 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 nation’s changing demographics. On the political front, it will be used by states to re-draw the 435 House districts and it will alter electoral-vote figures in the 2012 presidential election.
“As the census data is put out, it will be used more heavily and by more people than ever before in history,” said William O’Hare, a demographer who works with the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, which advocates for disadvantaged children.
The populations counts from the 2010 census will be presented to President Barack Obama no later than Dec. 31.
Congressional seats are reapportioned every decade following completion of the census, with each district supposed to have roughly the same number of people.
The Bloomberg analysis shows 17 states will see a change in their number of representatives, based on how much their populations have grown or shrunk since the 2000 census. 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.
A few more states could join the list, demographers say.
“There are about 13 states that are sitting right at the edge” of gaining or losing a seat, said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services. “I think we will see some surprises.”
New York, Ohio
New York, which has 29 districts, and Ohio, which has 18, could lose up to two of their House seats, based on the Bloomberg analysis. Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are likely to drop one.
Proportionally, Iowa stands to suffer the worst loss, the projections show. As the state’s population has declined, its politicians have been preparing for the likelihood their state will lose one of its five seats.
The changes will give more power to so-called Sunbelt states such as Texas, which the Bloomberg analysis shows is likely to have 36 House seats, up from 32. Such a change would give Texas 38 electoral votes in presidential elections, second only to California’s 55. A state’s electoral-vote tally is determined by the number of its House districts plus the two U.S. Senate seats each has. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes out of the 535 total to win the presidency.
Texas’s population grew 18.8 percent between 2000 and 2009, making it now home to 24.7 million, census estimates show. Republican Rick Perry won a fourth term as governor in the Nov. 2 election, putting him in position to help shape districts that favor his party.
States likely to gain a seat include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington, the Bloomberg analysis shows. The Election Data Services prediction shows Florida gaining two seats, while Polidata says it expects a gain of one there.
States will get the detailed data in March that is needed to redraw their districts in time for the 2012 elections. The redistricting process often yields oddly shaped boundaries that politicians hope will give their party the advantage in elections during the next decade.
Redistricting is primarily handled by state lawmakers in some states, while others rely on independent commissions that are meant to reduce the role of political calculations in the process. California voters last month approved a measure stripping the state legislature of the responsibility and giving the assignment to a commission. The state is not projected to see a change in its total of 53 House districts.
In the Congress that convenes in 2013, House delegations from the Northeast and Midwest will have fewer voices in their efforts for federal funding for heating assistance, agricultural subsidies, urban housing and labor programs, among other items.
“The fewer congressmen you have from your state, the less opportunity you have to persuade” fellow lawmakers “that you need that particular highway or military base,” said J. Thomas Wolfe, executive director of the Washington-based Northeast- Midwest Institute, a nonpartisan research center that focuses on the issues facing 18 Northeast and Midwest states.
Wolfe said the region’s loss of political power could have been worse, if the worst recession since the Great Depression had not slowed the migration of Americans.
“The financial debacle has caused a lot of the states that were gaining population to stop gaining,” he said. “The boom in the Sunbelt states has abated for the moment.”
Republicans gained ground in directing the redistricting process through their showing in the 2010 midterm elections.
With a net gain of six seats, the party will occupy governor offices in at least 29 states starting next year (one race, in Minnesota, remains undecided). Republicans also will control 25 state legislatures -- including those in Ohio, North Carolina, and Michigan -- boosting the party’s power in statehouses by the most since 1928, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.
Republicans fell short in some states. In Illinois, Democrats kept control of the governor’s office and state legislature, even as they lost Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.
Robert Groves, the census bureau’s director, declined to predict how many days before the Dec. 31 deadline his agency would release the state population totals.
“We will make our Dec. 31 deadline,” he said. “I’m very, very confident of that.”
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