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Lewis Morris / April 29, 2021

Census Sets Up a Potential Political Shift

With people moving from blue states into red ones, future elections are going to get more interesting.

The 2020 census numbers are in, and that means big news for Congress and various federal programs. Census results impact how 315 federal programs dole out $1.5 trillion to states and municipalities each year. It also determines how the 435 House seats will be divided among the states. Politically, this will have a big impact on the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.

But first, the numbers. As of April 1, 2020, the U.S. population was 331,449,281, give or take. That represents a 7.4% increase since the 2010 census, the second-slowest growing decade on record after the 1930s. This slower rate of population growth represents a trend that has been happening for years as younger generations are having fewer children.

Another trend that continues unabated is the migration of people from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West. Since the end of World War II, the Northeast and Midwest have been losing residents as industry and commerce has dwindled in those regions. In fact, there has been a net shift of 84 House seats to the south and west since 1940. States that lost congressional seats after the 2020 census mostly reflect this trend.

Seven states lost one seat each: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. All but two of these states — Ohio and West Virginia — voted for Joe Biden in 2020. This is the first time California has ever lost a congressional seat, which is a symptom of the sad state of economic, social, and political affairs in that state. New York, another bastion of Democrat control, lost a seat by the slimmest of margins — just 89 people. It’s worth noting, though, that the Empire State lost two seats in the 2010 census.

States that benefited from this out-migration and will be gaining House seats include Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas, the last of which will gain two seats. Of these states, all but two — Colorado and Oregon — voted for Donald Trump. The Lone Star State was the big winner in the 2020 count, gaining nearly four million residents, more than any other state.

A rough look at the numbers would indicate that people are moving from Democrat-controlled states to Republican ones, another trend that predates the latest census. Some would say this is an oversimplification and that people decide to move based more on job opportunities and the economic picture than social or political climates. However, states controlled by Republicans tend to be more business-friendly, which means more jobs and greater entrepreneurship. Republican states also tend to have more fiscally responsible government policies, which makes for more stable economic climates. So, yeah, politics matters.

The question is whether all these Republican states are getting millions of new Democrat voters.

It will be up to the individual state legislatures to draw the new congressional district boundaries. Nationwide, Republicans have the edge since the GOP controls 30 state legislatures, including those in Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Texas. But reapportionment is always a sticky process, with the parties trying to create voting blocs with creative district lines that sometimes wrap around city blocks and have even been known to cut buildings in half between districts. And with the 2022 midterms and elections for the rest of the decade in the balance, expect bitter arguments and lawsuits to follow.

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