The US Census Bureau announced Monday that the total population of the United States has topped 331 million people. The Census results found that Texas will gain two seats and Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will each gain one seat in Congress.
California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will all lose congressional seats ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The new numbers represented a decrease in population growth when compared to growth between 2000 and 2010.
The numbers highlight what experts had expected: Political power in the country is shifting from states in the Midwest and Northeast to states in the South and West.
Experts had long expected congressional seats to shift from the Midwest and Northeast to the South and West, due to booming growth around some of the largest cities in states like Texas, Florida and Colorado and stagnating growth in states like New York and Ohio.
The release of the data has been a long time coming, delayed by both the coronavirus pandemic and controversial legal fights on how President Donald Trump’s administration has handled the process.
The Census Bureau announced in February that the numbers, which would normally come out by April 1, would be delayed. The bureau cited the coronavirus pandemic, and the difficulty the virus created for those collecting census data, as the reason for the delay.
The process was also complicated by the Trump administration’s efforts to exclude noncitizens when seats in Congress were apportioned, a decision that landed the bureau and the Republican administration in lengthy legal fights.
In the majority of states, maps are redrawn and accepted by state legislatures, with many giving authority to the state’s governor to either approve or deny the new districts. Only a handful of states rely on relatively independent commissions to determine new maps. Because Republicans have been more successful at winning state legislatures in recent years, the party has almost total control over the process in a number of key states, like Texas and Florida.
If Republicans embark on cutting up increasingly diverse populations in the suburbs around some of the nation’s largest cities — combining them with more reliably Republican voters in exurbs and rural areas — the party will open themselves up to racial gerrymandering claims. Democrats are prepared to fight any attempts.
“The presumption that Republicans should get all of those new seats simply because they control the process is a presumption of gerrymandering,” said Kelly Ward Burton, the president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. “And that is illegal.”
Another issue facing both parties is how each should analyze the last four years of political shifts under Trump, a time that saw Democrats make up considerable ground in the suburbs and Republicans make inroads with Latino communities in places like South Florida and South Texas and consolidate support among rural voters.
The question for those party officials in charge of the redistricting process will be whether to treat these shifts as either aberrations or signs of more lasting changes.
“For people who did this stuff a decade ago, if they had known that Donald Trump was going to come along in 2016 and shift the American electorate, there’s at least a couple dozen seats around the country that would have been drawn differently than they were,” said Adam Kincaid, the head of the National Republican Redistricting Trust. “And that is the challenge for the next few years is trying to forecast out how much this realignment is permanent versus temporary.”