Here we go! The initial census data has arrived and we now know definitively which states are gaining and losing representation. We’ll also dive into what this might mean for politics going forward, and most importantly, how you can get involved.
Winners & losers
Due to the Reapportionment Act of 1929, we are stuck with 435 representatives in Congress no matter how much our population grows. So, when the census data comes out, we rearrange the 435 representatives. This once-a-decade cycle ended up with 7 states losing a representative, 5 states gaining a representative, and Texas gaining 2 representatives.
The Republicans only have to win back 5 seats to retake control of the House and this reapportionment will make that job a little easier.
Remember that each of these states’ electoral vote counts will also be affected going forward. That said, had the 2020 election happened with these new numbers, Joe Biden would still have won with 303 electoral votes (instead of the 306 he received.)
What happens next?
Now armed with how many representatives they get, each state has to redraw all of their district lines — this goes for both federal and state districts. The more detailed data needed from the Census Bureau to draw these lines won’t be released until the fall. But, each state is putting into motion their redistricting processes (if they haven’t already).
What you want to pay attention to is WHO is in control of drawing the district lines in your state. Count me as one of many people who believe politicians should play NO PART in deciding district lines — we the voters should be picking our politicians, not the other way around. But, many states still have their state legislatures in charge of the process. The other states have independent redistricting commissions. Here’s a terrific chart where you can look up who is in charge of redistricting in your state:
If you want more details about your state’s redistricting rules, do read 2020 Census: What the Reapportionment Numbers Mean — they’ve got a great, readable chart with more information.
What we need to watch for and try to protect against is gerrymandering. The Supreme Court forced several states to redraw their district lines in the past decade after they were found to have drawn racial gerrymanders. But the Supreme Court has refused to rule on partisan gerrymanders — and this is what entrenched Republican power in several states following the 2010 census.
What does this mean for future elections?
The fact that Biden would have only lost 3 electoral votes with this new reapportionment is one thing, but what about control of the U.S. House of Representatives, or state legislatures?
The early thinking is that Republicans have more of the advantage than Democrats do. That’s because even though more districts will be redrawn by independent commissions or split-party states, of the remaining districts, the Republicans have total control over the fate of 187 districts while the Democrats only have total control over the fate of 75 districts.
What can we do?
The Democratic Redistricting Commission has a handy list of actions you can take to ensure that Democrats don’t lose out with this new redistricting effort. You can find that list HERE.
If you live in a state where the state legislature will be redrawing the lines, contact your state representatives to find out what the process is and how citizens can get involved. Many of these states need to be transparent about the process and may have opportunities for citizen input. It’s time to get loud.