Monday, December 29, 2008

Reapportionment to Benefit Sun Belt


by: Reid Wilson, The Hill


The country's population center continues to shift south, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and congressional districts will follow after the 2012 reapportionment.

The new figures suggest that Texas will be the big winner following the nationwide census in 2010 and the attending decennial reapportionment process. The Lone Star State, fueled by explosive growth in its Hispanic population and an influx of transplants from other states, is projected to pick up as many as three congressional seats, according to a report compiled by Election Data Services, Inc.

Five other states, all in the Sun Belt, are projected to gain one House seat each, including Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Georgia. Southern and Western states have continuously grown at a much faster pace than those in the Midwest, Rust Belt and Northeast.

States set to lose a seat are largely in the industrial swath of the country, areas that have traditionally lost seats over the last several reapportionments. Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have all lost seats in recent population estimates. New Jersey and Iowa, both beset by economies that have grown slower than other states in the past decade, are also projected to lose a seat.

Louisiana, which lost thousands of residents in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, is the only state south of the Mason-Dixon Line projected to lose a member of Congress.

Recent trends have caused census-watchers to reassess projections from earlier this decade. Population growth rates have slowed considerably in Texas and Arizona, enough so that estimators have projected each will win one fewer seat after 2012 than many had expected.

Population growth had increased sufficiently in both Ohio and Missouri to save seats in those states; the Buckeye State was expected to lose two seats in four years, while Show-Me Staters had been slated to drop one of their nine seats.

EDS projections suggest population movements could still cause shifts before census-takers hit the streets in 2010. Long-term trends beginning in 2000 suggest that states in the Pacific Northwest - Oregon and Washington - are just a few thousand new residents away from winning new seats, while South Carolina would win a seventh seat in Congress.

Shorter-term trends, though, show population growth in the Upper Midwest and Northeast rebounding slightly, while the tremendous growth in the Sun Belt and west of the Rocky Mountains eased slightly.

For the first time in eighty years, California did not gain enough population to win a new seat in reapportionment. Following the 1930 census, California gained nine seats to reach 20. The Golden State has picked up seats every decade ever since, peaking after the 2000 census at 53 seats.


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