Apr 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The next census fight

Change in House seats following 2020 Census
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

All three states that missed out on expected congressional gains from the 2020 census — Arizona, Florida and Texas — have big Hispanic populations, the Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman tells Axios.

Why it matters: It's a lost shot at more muscle for one of America's fastest-growing voter groups, in some of America's fastest-growing states.

  • Wasserman said the new tally, revealed at a Census Bureau press conference Monday, resulted in a smaller shift than had been forecast: just seven seats moved states, rather than the expected 10.

The bottom line: "Reapportionment itself means little compared to the redistricting fights to come," Wasserman told Axios. "The bigger shift in House seats are likely to come from how districts are drawn, not how many districts each state gets."

  • "On balance, I think this reapportionment offers a small boost for Republicans, but the bigger boost is likely to come from how Republicans draw these seats in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia."

The census is conducted during the first year of each decade. A larger population means a larger share of the 435 House seats, as well as Electoral College votes.

  • The allocation could have the biggest effect on the House majority, which is already incredibly narrow with Democrats leading by just six seats.
  • That will likely rise or fall on the outcome of states redrawing their congressional district lines this fall. Republicans control the process in far more states than Democrats.
  • Some top political directors are worried about the possibility of lawsuits delaying key primaries.

What to watch: The final, detailed U.S. Census Bureau data will be released by Sept. 30 — just a little over a year from the 2022 midterm elections.

  • In the interim, consultants and state legislators will be busy drafting the outlines of potential future districts. They can't release their official plans for redistricting until they get the new data this fall.

Zoom in: Axios' Local reporters on the ground in Florida, Minnesota and Colorado — all states that were affected — offered their own perspective on why the data matters in their states.

  • Florida, via Axios Tampa's Ben Montgomery: "We expect central Florida to get the state's 28th seat. Orlando is the fastest growing area — and it will undoubtedly be Republican since Republicans control redistricting."
  • Minnesota, via Axios' Twin Cities' Torey Van Oot: "Minnesotans were shocked and elated at the news after months of predictions that the delegation would shrink. Many credited the state's nation-leading census response rate for saving the day."
    • Worth noting: Minnesota beat New York for the seat by a count of just 89 people. New York reported 1,941 COVID-19 deaths as of April 1, 2020 — more than 21 times the margin it lost out on the House's final seat, Wasserman points out.
    • "I can't recall the last time we've had a margin that small," he said.
  • Colorado, via Axios Denver's John Frank: "To blunt Democratic concerns about the national picture, Colorado’s growth arrived mostly in the Denver metro area — an increasingly blue hub that suggests the state’s new seat is expected to favor Democrats."
Go deeper