Texas will gain two more congressional seats and seven states will each lose a seat as a result of population shifts recorded in the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau said Monday in the release of its first round of data from the survey taken last year.
In total, seven seats shifted affecting 13 states. Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon each gained one seat in addition to Texas. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia each lost one seat.
The shift could affect the 2022 midterm elections and whether Democrats can hold onto control of the House, where they hold a narrow majority.
The U.S. House of Representatives has 435 seats, based on population. Every decade, as population shifts, the allotment of seats for each state may change based on updated data collected by the Census Bureau. States that grow may gain House members, at the expense of shrinking states.
The population for apportionment includes residents of the 50 states, plus overseas service members and federal civilian employees who are attached to their home state’s tally, according to the Census Bureau.
New congressional districts would take effect for the 2022 election. That puts added pressure on Democrats, who control the house by the slim margin of 218-212, with five seats vacant. The size of the House has not changed since 1913.
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“Today’s data release is the first step in the redistricting process and it will give states the number of congressional districts they will have for the rest of the decade,” said Michael Li, senior counsel for the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program.
Monday’s Census data release only contains information about total populations in each state, not specific information like the demographics of the population and where they reside that states will use to determine how they draw their congressional districting maps.
Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said Monday that redistricting data would be available by the end of September.
Texas’ gain is a continuation of a trend of rapid population growth in Southern and Western states and a “political power shift from one region of the country to the other,” Li said.
Census data showed the South grew the most in the last 10 years, by 10.2%. The West grew by 9.2%, the Northwest by 4.1% and the Midwest by 3.1%.
States that lost congressional districts based on the 2020 census will have the challenge of determining where to cut representation, while states that gained seats will be preparing for political battles.
Li said that the country could be poised for a battle over gerrymandering, the practice of redrawing district lines to favor one party over the other or to suppress the vote of communities of color. In some states, the process is fairer than others, he said, because they are not controlled by just one political party or they have instituted an independent redistricting committee, such as in Michigan. But for other states, the party in power stands to control the map.
“Because in some of the states… like Texas, Florida and North Carolina, redistricting is controlled by one party, it gives them a huge advantage because they can aggressively draw the map however they want,” Li said. “Aggressive gerrymandering could give Republicans a House majority in 2022.”
In states like Texas, a boom in population is due to growing communities of color, Li said, which will likely lead to national calls for more representation for the growing Latino community. He said this could lead to litigation over the maps.
“Redistricting will be a continuation of the war on voting, on steroids, because you can do a lot of things in redistricting to tamp down the power of growing communities of color… because people see political risk,” Li said.
One way to combat the potential for aggressive gerrymandering is the For the People Act, Li said. The bill was passed by the House in March along partisan lines and would mandate independent redistricting in addition to other measures intended to protect voters’ rights. One Democrat voted with all Republicans to oppose the bill, and it could face a filibuster from Republicans in the equally divided Senate.
The release of the apportionment numbers Monday afternoon comes almost four months later than planned because of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and anomalies discovered in the data as the numbers were being crunched.
COVID-19 delayed delivery of Census questionnaires for hard-to-reach populations during the 2020 spring quarantine and delayed operations since then to reach households that failed to respond.
In December, political consulting firm Election Data Services used preliminary 2020 population data to preview the potential winners and losers in reapportionment.
According to its projections, seven states would gain districts and 10 would lose districts.
Texas stands to win big, adding three seats to its current 36. Florida could add two, jumping to 29 House seats. Among the seven states poised to increase their voice in the House, only Florida and North Carolina are on the East Coast, with Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Oregon joining Texas in the West with population increases.
In the loss column, West Virginia could lose a third of its three House seats and Rhode Island could drop by half, to just one seat. Traditional Democratic strongholds California, Illinois and New York all could lose a seat. And part of the “blue wall” that helped Joe Biden win the presidency — Michigan and Pennsylvania — may lose a seat.
In 33 states, state legislatures take the lead role in determining how new districts are drawn, according to Ballotpedia. Eight other states use commissions to redistrict, and a hybrid model is used by two states.
Seven states have only one voting member of the House: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.
Contributing: Associated Press