Aug 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Charted: Dem advantage

Counties with the biggest population increase and decrease
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Bigger population jumps than expected in major cities. More diversity. Booming suburbs. Dwindling rural areas. All may make it harder — but not impossible — for Republicans to manipulate district lines to strengthen their power in states including Texas and Georgia, experts say.

Why it matters: The first results of the 2020 census are a balm for Democrats anxious about Republican gerrymandering efforts.

Between the lines: Some of the fastest-growing counties in the last decade are near blue cities in red states — like Hays and Comal counties in Texas and Bryan County, Georgia.

  • Meanwhile, almost all of the shrinking counties are moving toward Republicans, Claire Low, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee's targeting and analytics director, told Axios.
  • "If the maps are fair, Democrats will gain seats," NDRC president Kelly Burton told Axios.
  • The trends in Texas, where Republicans control redistricting, “basically makes the gerrymanders uglier and more complex," Texas Civil Rights Project staff attorney Joaquin Gonzalez told Axios.

What we're watching: Of note is just how much growth there's been in major cities like New York City and Chicago — both situated in states where Democrats control redistricting.

  • "It's better for Democrats that there are more seats going to the cities and that they can dilute the power of rural Republican areas in those states more easily," Cook Political Report's David Wasserman told Axios.
  • New York state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D), who represents western Queens, said the results make it likelier that redder, upstate areas — not blue New York City — lose a seat. He credited high population counts to city campaigns to get people to fill out the census — also protecting the state against losing more House seats.

So far, fears of a significant undercount of the Hispanic population due to the Trump administration's efforts to not count undocumented immigrants haven't played out in the data, Wasserman said.

  • That's another good sign for Democrats, who tend to be favored by Latino voters.

What's next: The Austin area has grown substantially over the decade — and Wasserman and Low say Texas Republicans may try to concentrate that population into already blue districts to keep surrounding GOP seats as red as possible.

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