Civil Rights; Congressional Representation and Electoral Votes Don’t Change Much in the 2020 Census Totals; May 2021
Policy Summary: In 1929, Congress passed the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929. After battles between rural and urban factions in Congress, the act permanently capped the number of U.S. House Representatives at 435. (Membership in the Senate was not altered, as each state would continue to receive two Senators regardless of population or geographic size). With the United States continually increasing in population at this time the number was capped in order to manage the large number of representatives. In subsequent years, Congress developed a formula as to how the 435 seats would be apportioned and Supreme Court case law later determined that every congressional district should be roughly equal in terms of the number of persons residing in a congressional district.
In April 2021 the United States Census Bureau (Bureau) as part of the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) issued the report titled “A Preliminary Analysis of U.S. and State – Level Results From the 2020 Census.” The report issues a statistical breakdown of the population numbers of all the states and compares these numbers to the official population tabulation from 2000 and 2010. Since 2000 the U.S. population increased 9.7% from 281,424,603 in 2000 to 308,745,538 in 2010. From 2010 to 2020 the U.S. population increased 7.4% from 308,745,538 in 2010 to 331,449,281 in 2020. Even with this increase in numbers, the members of the House of Representatives is still capped at 435 members with each state guaranteed at least one Representative and additional members apportioned to states based on their population. In 2010 each congressional district was comprised on average of 710,767 persons. In 2020, that average number will increase with each congressional district comprising 761,169 persons. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
Policy Analysis: When the 2020 census numbers were released a number of groups remained wary of the totals. The reason for that was because the 2020 census had a troubled history that resulted in a number of federal lawsuits. Former President Donald Trump contributed to the confusion by trying to add a citizenship question to the census questionnaire and by trying to exclude immigrant persons from the total tally. The concern was that the official 2020 final count might undercount immigrant and minority communities and cause federal monies to be allocated in an uneven manner.
But these concerns seem to have been unfounded so far. What the April 2021 report does is give a simple headcount of the population in the United States. Race and other demographic data were not included in this early report and will be released later in 2021 after the data is more closely scrutinized. What is important about this data now is how the 435 seats in Congress will be divided among the states and what the implications will be for future presidential elections and the electoral vote totals.
Many pundits had forecasted a radical swing in the number of seats that red states stood ready to gain. While representation in Congress was a big reason to watch the census closely, future presidential elections were also a concern. The number of electoral votes a state has is equal to the total number of senators and representatives a state has in Congress. If a state gained additional representatives from apportionment because of the census, then their number of electoral votes would go up as well. Because of the winner takes all electors system used in most states in presidential elections the focus was on traditionally red states that might get more presidential electors. Arizona, Florida and Texas were projected to accumulate additional representatives because of their large Latino populations. But the big boon for red states did not really materialize.
In all, only seven seats shifted among a total of 13 states. While traditionally red Texas gained two additional House seats, consistently blue states Oregon and Colorado each gained one seat. Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania each lost a seat but since Florida and North Carolina each gained one it cannot be considered significant as all of those states are considered battleground states. All of them have a history of voting both red and blue in recent presidential elections. The shifting of seven House seats and the change in electoral vote totals for those states does not appear to have given Republicans an advantage nor given Democrats a disadvantage in future presidential elections. The census was predicted to cause a sea change in the number of House Representatives for a number of states and a possible increase in electoral votes for red states but that has not been the case at all. The final legacy of the 2020 decennial census may come later this year when race and demographic information will be released and show whether minority communities can benefit and be included in the package of federal benefits that are traditionally earmarked for states after a census. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- United States Census Bureau – infopage on 2020 census work and population total results.
- Brennan Center for Justice – info page on 2020 census and upcoming apportionment.
This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.