The long-term trend of congressional representation as dictated by the decennial census has for decades been toward the South and West and away from the Northeast and Midwest. That trend continued in the official 2020 census determinations, announced Monday, but it has slowed down significantly, and also didn’t produce much of a partisan shift.
Projections based on census estimates had Texas gaining three seats and Florida two, while Alabama and Rhode Island were expected to lose a seat. Some projections also showed Arizona gaining a seat and Minnesota losing one; neither of those things happened.
In the Q&A session following the reapportionment “reveal,” census personnel explained there was something of a photo finish between Minnesota and New York for the last seat awarded. Had New York registered just 89 more people in the census, it would have retained all 27 House seats. California was also pretty close to retaining all of its 53 districts, and Arizona just missed adding one to its current 11 seats.
Looking at what the 2020 presidential election results would have looked like with the new, reapportioned House districts and electoral votes shows that Trump would have picked up three more net electoral votes. Thus, Biden would have won by a 303 to 232 margin. Similarly, the reapportionment shifted three net House seats from blue to red states, but the actual impact of the decennial census will have to await redistricting within the states, where Republicans are expected to make more significant gains. But the bonanza the GOP was expected to derive in Texas and Florida isn’t quite as robust as sometimes predicted.
More generally, the 2020 census showed a U.S. population of 331 million, and between 2010 and 2020 population growth was the slowest since the 1930s. As the Washington Post explained it, the “slowdown is probably due to the aging of the country’s White population, decreased fertility rates, and lagging immigration.” But inevitably, an undercount of Latinos and perhaps other minority groups will be suspected, particularly given pandemic conditions and the hostile attitude of the Trump administration.