Every ten years, the United States of America conducts a census. This census collects many different pieces of information, and the data that can be mined from the census is multifaceted and fascinating. However, the main purpose of the census, as put forward in the United States Constitution, is to apportion seats in the United States House of Representatives based on each states population. This also determines the amount of electoral votes each state gets in presidential elections.
After the census mails out its forms, and then goes door to door to get responses from people who failed to return their forms, it puts all its information into a big computer, which eventually spits out a long piece of ticker tape displaying the total population of each state. (I am guessing on that last part.) Although the actual tallying of census data was at one time very time consuming in human and later computer labor, I imagine that in the 21st century, when we have computers designed to find the value of pi to several trillion places, the actual tallying of the populations of the states is probably a fairly trivial job. The census was taken in the spring and summer of 2010, and the results were available by December 2010. There had been many guesses about which states gained and lost seats based on population projections, and they turned out to be mostly accurate.
- Texas: Texas gained four congressional seats, which even by Texan standards, is a big gain in congressional seats. In the past 50 years, only California and Florida have gained that many seats after a census. Texas now has a total of 36 seats, and 38 electoral votes.
- Florida: Along with California and Texas, Florida has been a steadily growing state since after the end of World War II, and this year is no exception. Florida gains a relatively modest two congressional seats, bringing it to a total of 27 seats, and 29 electoral votes.
- Georgia: Georgia gained one seat, moving to 14 seats and 16 electoral votes.
- South Carolina: Although not a perennial gainer, South Carolina gained a seat this census, moving up to 7 seats and 9 electoral votes.
- Utah: Gained one seat, moving to 4 seats and 6 electoral votes.
- Arizona: Gained a seat, moving to 8 seats and 10 electoral votes.
- Nevada: Nevada was actually the greatest gainer in the terms of its percentage in population, moving up 35% since the 2000 Census. Nevada gained one seat, moving to 4 seats and 6 electoral votes.
- Washington gained a seat, going to 10 seats and 12 electoral votes.
And, the states who lost seats, told in a somewhat briefer format:
And, conspicuously not moving at all is California
, a state that since 1930
has gained seats. California appears to have reached the right side of its sigma curve
, at least for the present. Although California is still gaining population, it is not doing so at a rate greater than the country as a whole.
The facts being laid out, a bit of commentary should be added. The trend since the end of World War II has been that the Northeast and Midwest lost seats, while the South and West gained seats. This census was no exception, with the only exception to that being Louisiana, a southern state that lost population after Hurricane Katrina. This was again something that most population predictions had guessed at, although the exact details were sometimes a bit off (for example, North Carolina and Oregon were both possibilities to gain seats, something they both missed.
One result of this population shift is that states that tend to vote more conservatively will gain seats, while liberal states will lose seats. The conventional wisdom is that this reapportionment will therefore favor the Republican Party. There are several nuances in this view, however. For one thing, in the electoral college, some of the gainers were not as firmly conservative as they once were. Florida is the epitome of a swing state, and Washington is a safe Democratic state. Nevada and Arizona are also somewhat disputed territory. However, on the whole, the big gains in Texas and the losses across the Middle Atlantic mean that the Democratic Party has lost a net of about 10 electoral votes.
However, the reapportionment also effects congressional districts, as well as electoral votes, and this might be a gain for the Democratic Party. Although Texas is a conservative state overall, much of the gain in population has been in Hispanic areas that are much more likely to vote Democratic. It could also be the case in Georgia, Florida and Arizona that the population growth has been in urban areas that are more likely to vote Democratic. It is also the case that while Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio are mostly Democratic, the population loss is in conservative, rural area. Of course, this also depends on redistricting, where each state draws up the boundaries for its congressional districts. This process is perhaps the most complicated and frankly, corrupt part of the American political system, and will not be completed until some time in 2012.
On balance, the reapportionment probably favors the Republican Party, but in a way that is so slight that it will probably be drowned out by other, larger demographic trends, or about the specific issues and personalities of politicians.