- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Southern and Western states are growing so much faster than the rest of the country that several are expected to grab House seats from the Northeast and Midwest when Congress is reapportioned in 2010.

Demographers and political analysts project that Texas and Florida could each gain as many as three House seats. Ohio and New York could lose as many as two seats apiece.

Several other states could gain or lose single seats.

“The states in the Midwest are going through a transition,” Ohio Republican Chairman Bob Bennett said. “We’re going from a heavy manufacturing economic base to a more service-oriented base, and that transition has been very painful.”

The projections are based on state population estimates by the Census Bureau. The bureau released its July 2005 estimates today, showing that Nevada grew at a faster rate than any other state for the 19th consecutive year, followed by Arizona, Idaho, Florida and Utah.

Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts lost population, as did the District of Columbia. The populations of North Dakota, Ohio and Michigan grew, but at a slower rate than others.

Overall, the country grew by 0.9 percent in the past year, to about 296.4 million people.

Every 10 years, the 435 seats in the House are divided among the states based on population counts in the census. The numbers also are used to divvy up votes in the Electoral College.

Clark Bensen of Polidata, a Virginia firm that analyzes political data, said population shifts in the past 65 years have dramatically changed the regional makeup of Congress.

In 1940, Northeastern and Midwestern states had 251 seats in the House, compared with 184 for states in the South and West. Today, Southern and Western states have the edge, 252-183.

“Basically, it took two generations to have a complete shifting of the power base,” Mr. Bensen said.

Kim Brace of Election Data Services, a firm that also analyzes political numbers, said population shifts can affect the regional issues that preoccupy Washington.

“The old industrial-era towns and their particular issues are no longer holding as much sway in Congress,” Miss Brace said. “There are less people speaking their message.”

One state that could use more influence in Congress actually could lose a seat.

Mr. Bensen and Miss Brace agreed that current data — collected before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast — shows Louisiana in danger of losing one of its seven House seats.

Since the storm, thousands of people have been dispersed throughout the region and beyond, making it even more likely the state will lose a seat, Mr. Bensen said.

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