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Census Data Shows 11 House Seats Could Shift Census Data Shows 11 House Seats Could Shift

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Legacy Content / ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

Census Data Shows 11 House Seats Could Shift

Texas Would Be The Biggest Winner, Standing To Gain Four New Congressmen

December 23, 2009

Updated at 12:10 p.m. on Dec. 23.

With the Census Bureau's release today of its annual population estimates for the 50 states, the final projections of next year's decennial census reveal further details of the likely winners and losers. Here are some highlights based on the analysis by Polidata, a demographic and political research firm.

• Of the 11 House seats that would switch among the states as a result of the projections, Texas would gain four. The remaining seats would be distributed one each to seven states -- four in the West (Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Washington) and three in the South (Florida, Georgia and South Carolina).

 

• Of the states losing seats, only Ohio would suffer multiple losses, with two. The remaining states that are projected to have downsized House delegations include four in the Northeast (Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania), four in the Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota), plus Louisiana.

• Using the complex formula for apportioning the House, Missouri would be on the cusp with the 435th seat and Minnesota is listed for the mythical 436th seat -- by a margin of roughly 10,000 persons each. Those states, consequently, will be among those states with the most at stake to assure a full count of their residents.

• Compared to similar projections a year ago of "winner" states, Washington has replaced Oregon in gaining a House seat, while Arizona would gain one seat instead of two, and North Carolina would gain none. California and Missouri no longer would lose a House seat.

Based on recent historical experience, these projections will likely be close to the final results when the actual House reapportionment is officially announced in December 2010. But Polidata chief consultant Clark Bensen cautioned that the 2000 census produced some surprises: "Two states were gainers and two states were losers in the final count compared to the projections."

Bensen listed the following factors in next April's census that could influence the final state counts: the continuation of shifts in population that have taken place since the July 1 estimates this year and the degree to which they will continue for the next three months, including the displacement of victims from Hurricane Katrina; the extent of international migration patterns, which might be affected by the recession and other economic changes; overseas population counts by the Census Bureau; and the degree to which the census pursues a maximum count of U.S. residents and gets them to respond.

"The closer one gets to the census date of April 1, 2010, the fewer options are available that would swing seats from one state to another," Bensen added. "However, the apportionment formula is very sensitive to small shifts in persons."

These state-to-state population shifts, of course, will affect the internal dynamics of the House, as well as Electoral College control in the 2012 presidential election. Although the shifts appear likely to favor Republicans, on balance, the huge increase in Hispanic population -- especially in the South and West -- could benefit Democrats within some of those states.

In Texas, for example, Hispanic and Democratic groups expect that the four-seat statewide gain will include three new Hispanic-majority districts: in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, in Houston and in south Texas. Those changes, in turn, could entrench several metropolitan-area House Republican districts, which have had huge increases in Hispanic population in the past decade.

The redistricting process will begin in 2011. In 38 states, the legislature is responsible for redrawing the congressional maps, making party control critical. In the remaining five states with more than one congressional district, lines are determined by an independent commission.

In compiling its annual population estimates, the Census Bureau is not as thorough as the researchers who will conduct next April's count. And, as Bensen said, today's data is "just a projection based upon the estimates." But, he added, the new estimates "not only review the recent population shifts and trends but also allow political observers a chance to review how the results of the 2010 census will affect the apportionment of the U.S. House."

CORRECTION: The original version of this report misspelled Clark Bensen's name.

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