Politics

The Congressional Map Glows Red

A review of the 2010 census findings and its implications.
by | February 2011
 

The Sun Belt wins again. In the once-every-decade process of reapportioning congressional seats, the Sun Belt gained 10 seats while the Midwest and Northeast lost a combined 10.

In recent decades, the U.S. population has shifted from the north and east to the south and west. As a result, the Sun Belt, including Florida, has gained influence in Congress.

The winners from the 2010 census are Texas (gaining four seats) and Florida (two), with one additional seat each for Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington. The states losing seats are New York and Ohio (two each) and one each for Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The last time a state north of the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Continental Divide gained a House seat was 1960. Meanwhile, this represents the first time the West has had more seats than the Midwest.

California retains the biggest state delegation at 53 seats, but it did not gain any for the first time since the 1930 census. Texas remains second biggest, with its delegation growing from 32 to 36. Florida’s two-seat gain and New York’s two-seat decline moves them into a tie for third at 27 seats each.

Over the next year or so, state legislators (or in some cases, bipartisan commissions) will redraw congressional district lines, often with a partisan edge in mind. Republicans will have a free hand in drawing 210 of the 435 congressional seats, with Democrats controlling just one-quarter of that number, according to the political demographic firm Election Data Services. “The Republicans are better placed than they have been in decades [to draw their own maps],” says Clark Bensen, a political demographer with the firm Polidata.

If the census had only used citizens to calculate the reapportionment, rather than all "inhabitants" as the Constitution requires, several states would have fared worse than they did, especially a handful of large states with large Hispanic populations.

Texas would have gained only two new seats rather than four, New York would have lost three seats rather than two, Florida would have gained one seat rather than two and California would have lost five seats rather than staying even, according to a Polidata estimate.

States that would have fared better under a citizens-only count are Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri and Pennsylvania, which would have stayed even rather than losing a seat; Ohio, which would have lost one seat rather than two; and Indiana, Montana, North Carolina and Oklahoma, which would have gained a seat rather than staying even.

Meanwhile, the outflow of people after Hurricane Katrina not only cost Louisiana a seat -- the only southern state to shrink this decade -- but likely made possible one of the four seats Texas is gaining.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. You can enter an anonymous Display Name or connect to a social profile.

More from Politics