Texas is in line to be the biggest winner in congressional reapportionment at the end of the decade, when the country’s 435 U.S. House seats are divvied up by population, with new estimates showing the Republican powerhouse state poised to gain three seats.
Indeed, if trends persist through 2020, when the next census takes place, Rust Belt states will continue to shed seats, shifting political power to Sunbelt states that have been particularly friendly to Republicans in recent state and congressional elections, according to numbers from Election Data Services, Inc. released last week.
Under current EDS projections, Texas would gain three new seats in Congress, Florida would get two new seats, and Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Oregon would each gain one seat.
Those gains would come at the expense of other states not growing as fast. Projected now to lose one seat apiece are Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
Seats are divided up based on the decennial census, with the adjustments supposed to take place in time for the 2022 election.
EDS analysts cautioned that the numbers could still shift dramatically over the next five years.
“We are only at the midpoint of the decade, and a lot of things could change before the next census is taken in 2020,” said Kimball Brace, EDS president. “Having worked with Census data and estimates since the 1970s, it’s important to remember that major events like Katrina and the 2008 recession each changed population growth patterns, and that impacted and changed the next apportionment.”
EDS said under its 2014 projections, California and Virginia had been in line to get an extra seat each, but the 2015 numbers erased those gains.
The division of seats controls not just power in Congress, but also the amount of weight a state has in the electoral college, which selects the president.
Among the states gaining seats, Arizona and Texas have been solidly Republican, while North Carolina, Florida and Colorado are considered swing states in presidential elections. Oregon is the only Democratic-leaning state now projected to gain a seat.
The losing states are mostly Democratic strongholds at the presidential level, with only Alabama and West Virginia consistently voting GOP, and Ohio considered a swing state.
The University of North Carolina’s Carolina Population Center ran estimates in November, based on 2014 Census Bureau data and four different population projections, and said Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Texas are the most likely gainers, with Texas gaining two seats. Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon also had a chance at one-seat gains.
The UNC study projected the losers to be chiefly in the Northeast and upper Midwest.
If Rhode Island were to lose one of its seats, it would drop to just a single seat in the House, joining Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming as states that are represented by more senators than House members.
New York would continue its steady slide since 1940, when it peaked at 45 representatives. It would drop to 26 after the next census.
If EDS projections were in place in the last presidential election, they would have shifted three electoral votes from President Obama to GOP nominee Mitt Romney — nowhere near enough to bridge the 126-vote gap.
Texas, Arizona and Florida are on pace to extend a steady increase in representation and clout that dates back five decades.
Since 1970, Arizona has gone from four seats to its current nine, and would gain a 10th under EDS projections. Florida has leapt from 15 seats to 27, and would hit 29 under the projections. And Texas has gone from 24 to 36, and would hit 39 under EDS projections.
California remains by far the most politically powerful state, which it has been since 1970. Under EDS projections, it would keep its 53 seats.