Several southern and western states will be seeing an increase in their political clout in the House of Representatives, according to the first results from the Census Bureau’s decennial survey.
The bureau released its apportionment counts Monday, as well as the total population for each state, according to the 2020 Census. Apportionment determines which states gain or lose congressional districts based on their total population.
The counts also set each state’s share of votes in the Electoral College, which is determined by the number of representatives in their congressional delegation.
Population growth in Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Oregon, Montana and Colorado will result in added congressional seats to these delegations. The new seats in these states will be offset by the loss of seats in New York, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Michigan and West Virginia — all states that experienced static growth or population losses.
Texas’ congressional delegation will increase from 36 to 38 seats, North Carolina will add a 14th district, and Montana is going to have more than one Congressional seat for the first time since 1993.
Illinois and Pennsylvania will lose a congressional district for the fifth straight Census. California will lose a congressional district for the first time in its history, though it still has more than any state, with 52 districts. New York barely ended up losing a congressional district — with just 89 more residents, it would have held onto the district it lost.
States that lose seats may sue the Biden administration and challenge the apportionment count.
Overall, the U.S. population grew by 7.4% from 2010 to 2020. This is the second lowest rate of growth in Census Bureau history, since 1902.
Under normal circumstances, the apportionment data would have been delivered to the secretary of commerce and the president by December 31, 2020. However, the timeline was delayed due to a pause in data collection caused by the pandemic, as well as an unsuccessful push by the Trump administration to put a question about citizenship on the census.
The bureau completed its population count by mid-October in 2020, though some advocates worried about a potential undercount for minority and immigrant communities.
“I assured the president that the Census was complete and accurate,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.
“We are very confident in the quality of the data. And we’ve worked hard that the data we’re using to calculate apportionment is correct,” said census bureau statistician Kristin Burnett.
In February, the bureau set an April 30 deadline for apportionment data to be delivered to states. More specific data for redistricting (the redrawing of congressional and legislative lines) has to be sent to states by September 30, though the bureau can begin releasing that data as soon as August 16.
Two ongoing lawsuits from Alabama and Ohio argue the bureau’s timeline unlawfully clashes with their state deadlines, and redistricting data should be released earlier, by the end of July.
The timeline has also had a chilling effect on 2022 House races, as potential candidates wait to see what district lines will look like before jumping in. It has also caused many states with constitutional or statutory deadlines to consider moving candidate filing and primary dates.
Twelve states require redistricting to be completed this year according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
One state, Illinois, is considering using estimates from alternative data sets in order to meet their June 30 deadline. California petitioned their state court to seek relief from their deadlines and push their deadlines back four months.
The delay in data also means two states that hold elections this year, New Jersey and Virginia, will not be able to draw new lines by November and will instead run on their current maps.
The Bureau’s release of apportionment data marks the first official step for redistricting: redrawing of lines for congressional, state legislative and other local government voting districts.
Twenty-five states utilize an independent, bipartisan commission to draw their maps, or have split chambers of legislatures in charge. In eighteen states, Republicans control both chambers of the legislature and will redraw the maps. Democrats control the process in seven states, the Brennan Center’s Michael Li noted in a recent report.
When a party has unilateral control of the process, it is more likely to engage in the practice of drawing districts that are politically advantageous, otherwise known as “gerrymandering.”
Li writes that states under single-party political control that have seen demographic change, such as Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, are at the “highest-risk” for gerrymandering.
North Carolina had to redraw its congressional and state legislative districts in 2019, after a panel of three judges ruled it was “beyond a reasonable doubt” that past districts were “extreme partisan gerrymanders” that benefitted Republicans.
But two Supreme Court cases in the past decade have also changed the guardrails for gerrymandering.
In 2013, Judges ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 regarding federal approval on redistricting plans, no longer applies.
And a 5-4 decision in 2019 on a case involving claims of partisan map drawing in North Carolina and Maryland, kicked the question of the legality of partisan redistricting to state legislatures.
“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.
Redistricting activists argue that states can begin using more recent data from the bureau’s annual American Community Survey to begin drafting maps, in order to allow more time to gauge public input.
What’s at stake
With a slim Democratic majority in the House, Republicans have pointed to the legislative majorities they have in states that’ll add seats, as a key to flipping the chamber.
Monday’s apportionment count did not include as many added seats in Arizona, Texas and Florida, or the loss of seats in Rhode Island and Minnesota that some Democratic and Republican groups were expecting.
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by Obama Attorney General Eric Holder, warned that Republican state legislators who have pushed for laws he called “anti-voter” would try to increase safe GOP seats and decrease the number of districts where Democrats can compete, “hoping to manufacture an illegitimate majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2022 and beyond.” He vowed that the NRDC would “do everything in our power to ensure the voices of the people are not silenced by bad maps.”
Adam Kincaid, executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, said the numbers showed “a wash as far as redistricting control is concerned.”
“It’s really a lot of changes on the margins. But I would be remiss without acknowledging that these numbers are off from what our expectations were and what others’ expectations were by a little bit,” Kincaid told reporters Monday. “Seven seats moving from one seat to the other is less than we’ve seen for decades.
The upcoming redistricting process could also force some incumbents to run in more politically competitive districts, or try for statewide offices. Democrat Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan launched his Senate campaign Monday, the same day it was revealed his state would lose a congressional seat.
In New York, which is set to lose a district and has a process by which Democrats in Albany have the final call on maps, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin has already launched a campaign for governor.
For others, like Shirley Ronquillo of Harris County in Texas, redrawing lines means an opportunity to fight for resources and combat inequalities in her community.
“Gerrymandering has carved out my district from adequate medical support, economic growth and state funding,” Ronquillo said during a February hearing by the Texas Redistricting Committee.
“I urge all committee members to allow for public input before Texas district maps are finalized through committee, so residents can address issues that are important to our communities.”