Newly released Census Bureau population estimates show that as many as 13 House seats may shift across the country following the official 2010 Census, according to an analysis by the Washington-based Election Data Services.
The eagerly awaited annual Census report shows an extension of population trends that, in many cases, go back decades: a shift of population -- and, consequently, political power -- from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West.
Based on the latest Census Bureau estimates, eight House districts are already due to shift in 2012. The biggest change would take place in Texas, whose 32-member House delegation would gain three seats. Five other states would gain one district each: Florida and Georgia in the South, and Arizona, Nevada and Utah in the West. Except for Utah, each of those states gained at least one House district following the 2000 Census.
The corresponding losses would be spread among eight states that would lose one House district each: Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania in the Northeast; Iowa, Michigan and Ohio in the Midwest; and Louisiana in the South. The shrinkage in Louisiana had been a possibility even before New Orleans lost about half its population in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The shift of as many as 13 seats for the scheduled 2012 reapportionment is based on several projections by Election Data Services that assume a continuation of current trends, though at various paces. The contrasts between what EDS president Kimball Brace terms "long-term," "mid-term," and "short-term" shifts are based on the current recession, the housing market downturn and related factors.
Citing a Pew Research Center report from last week that showed the share of the population changing residences between 2006 and 2007 was the smallest since the start of such measures in the late 1940s, Brace said "this slowdown in mobility will also have a definite impact on the apportionment process this decade."
Under Brace's "short-term" model, 12 districts would shift among 19 states. The winners would be: four to Texas, two to Arizona, and one each to Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina and Utah. Those districts would come from the following states: two from Ohio, and one each from Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Brace's more robust "mid-term" model would add one district to North Carolina and remove it from California -- which has gained at least one district in every decennial reapportionment since it joined the Union in 1850.
The actual shifts between the states are scheduled to be announced by the Census Bureau in December 2010. Then, each state with at least two House districts will conduct its own redistricting prior to the 2012 election. Many of those states -- even those that don't change their number of districts -- will engage in partisan battles that will be influenced by which party controls the governor's office and the state legislature after the November 2010 elections. The most notable recent example was Texas' controversial second round of redistricting in 2003, which was spurred by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, after Republicans took control of the legislature.
Shifts of House districts also will affect the composition of the Electoral College in the 2012 presidential election.
Here are some other notable results from the Census Bureau estimates, which cover population changes from July 2007 to July 2008.
• Utah had the fastest growth rate, with 2.5 percent. Other states with at least a 2.0 percent gain were Arizona, Texas, North Carolina and Colorado. Nevada, which had been among the four most rapidly growing states each of the past 24 years, slipped to 1.8 percent growth, which was eighth overall.
• Texas had the biggest total population change with a gain of 483,542 during the 12-month period. Next was California with 379,132. Four states gained between 100,000 and 200,000: North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Florida.
• The West had the fastest rate of growth with 1.4 percent, while the South had the largest overall increase with 1.4 million new people.
• Only two states lost population during the past year: Michigan, with 46,000, and Rhode Island, with 2,000.
A Census Bureau projection in 2005 would have created two-seat gains and losses for Florida and New York -- instead of the current expectation of a one-seat shift in each case.
The final reapportionment shifts can be affected by population counts of a relative handful of people. Under one analysis, Brace said, Oregon would gain its additional seat "with just two persons to spare," while California could lose a seat by only 18 people. That prospect will create huge pressures in many states to maximize their count during the official Census in April 2010.