Census: After 2020, California's Congressional delegation could shrink for the first time in 160 years

Census: After 2020, California's Congressional delegation could shrink for the first time in 160 years

On Dec. 30, the Census Bureau released its newest population estimates for every state, detailing how many residents each state has gained or lost since the last census, in 2010. We’ve used these figures, along with estimates from previous years, to project how many seats in Congress each state is likely to gain or lose after next year’s census, when the Constitution mandates that all 435 House seats be reallocated according to each state’s share of the total U.S. population.

As shown in the map above (see here for a larger version), 17 states could see their number of districts change after the 2020 census, based on both the long-term 2010-2019 trend and the short-term 2018-2019 trend.

These projections also represent a shift, in some cases, from those that the firm Election Data Services issued a year ago, when the Census Bureau last updated its population estimates. These three changes are summarized below:

If California does indeed lose a seat, it would be the first time in 160 years that the Golden State’s representation in the House shrank.

The 2020 census and subsequent reapportionment will thus set the stage for congressional redistricting. However, it’s difficult to predict with much accuracy what the partisan impact of these changes will be because we don’t yet know which party (if any) will control the redistricting process in many states. If redistricting had taken place after the 2019 elections, Republicans would have been able draw two to three times more congressional districts than Democrats. However, elections next year for governors, state legislatures, and redistricting reform measures will be crucial for setting the partisan landscape.

One thing we do know, however, is that much of the population growth in Sun Belt states such as Texas comes from black, Latino, and Asian-American residents, which could benefit Democrats in those states. However, many GOP-controlled states such as Texas have refused to allocate any supplemental funding to prevent undercounts of these populations.

Reapportionment will also determine how many Electoral College votes each state receives, since each state gets electoral votes equivalent to its number of House seats plus two for its Senate delegation. Adjusting the 2016 Electoral College outcome based on the above projections, Donald Trump would have gained three electoral votes, while Hillary Clinton would have lost three—not nearly enough to alter Trump’s 304-227 win.

Interestingly, the largely Midwestern and Northeastern states that are projected to lose seats almost all trended Republican in 2016, while the states forecast to gain seats—largely in the Sun Belt— almost all trended Democratic. These trends could benefit Democrats in the long term if they can start winning regularly in places such as Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas, even if Republicans shift toward a greater reliance on carrying the Rust Belt.

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