Political power shifted slightly from blue to red states Monday as the Census Bureau announced how seats in the U.S. House will be divvied up for the next decade, giving Texas two more seats and Florida one seat, while California and New York each lost a seat.
Also gaining seats were Colorado, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon, while Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia ceded seats.
Overall, the bureau tallied 331,449,281 people in the country on April 1, 2020, or Census Day. That was up 22.7 million, or 7.4%, from a decade ago, but it was the second-slowest growth in history, ahead of only the Great Depression decade of the 1930s.
All but three states showed population growth from 2010 to 2020, but those in the Northeast and Upper Midwest generally grew slower than in the South and West, continuing a decadeslong shift of people and power.
“The 2020 census results show Americans are fleeing many liberal states with excessive government mandates for other states that value freedom and individual liberty,” said Rep. James Comer, a Kentucky Republican who serves as the ranking member on the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
The changes are smaller than analysts predicted, with gains or losses in 13 states. That is the fewest since the current method of apportionment began in 1941, said acting Census Director Ron S. Jarmin.
Earlier projections had Texas gaining three seats and Florida gaining two seats. New York was projected to lose two seats. In each case, those numbers were overshot.
Mr. Jarmin said population growth slowed significantly, which may have upset some early projections, but the counts in Florida and Texas did come in below what was anticipated.
New York came close to keeping all of its seats.
If all other states remained static and 89 more people were counted in New York, then the state would have supplanted Minnesota, which would have lost a seat.
Immigrant rights advocates in New York took credit for preventing worse losses. Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said it took a “herculean effort” by activists to get residents in the state to respond to the census despite headwinds from the COVID-19 pandemic and political turmoil surrounding President Trump’s attempts to shape the count.
The data is the first step in allocating seats in the House for the next decade. Each state is guaranteed at least one seat, and the rest of the 435 seats — a number set in law — are divided among states based on a version of the population count.
California lost a seat for the first time in its history but is still the behemoth of House politics, with 52 seats. Texas is next with 38 seats after Monday’s gains. Florida now will have 28 seats, officially taking the third-place slot from New York, which now will have 26 seats.
The shift in numbers, while less than anticipated, shows a long-term trend of power moving away from the Northeast and Upper Midwest and toward the South and West.
Of the six states that gained seats, four went Republican in the November presidential election. Of the seven states that lost seats, five went Democratic in the race.
The seats also matter for the Electoral College, where each state has two electors representing the number of senators plus the number of electors in its House delegation. Texas, with 38 House seats, gets 40 presidential electors.
If the 2020 presidential race were held today with the new breakdown, then President Biden’s tally would slip from 306 electoral votes to 303.
The state-level population numbers also determine where tens of billions of federal dollars go each year.
That’s good news for Utah and Idaho, which led the nation with 18% and 17% growth, respectively. In terms of sheer numbers, Texas’ growth spurt of 4 million people far outstripped the rest of the country. Florida was second with 2.7 million new residents.
Divvying up House seats among the states is known as apportionment.
Next comes redistricting, when states draw district maps. That process begins this fall with the release of more granular data, and it’s when sharp elbows are used.
Creative map-drawing in recent years has allowed both Democrats and Republicans to structure maps for maximum political power in states where they have complete control of the process.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a political analysis conducted by the University of Virginia, said Republicans are likely to end up with a slight edge based on the reapportionment.
With so much riding on the numbers, Census Bureau officials were peppered with questions during a virtual press conference Monday about their confidence in the count, given the pandemic.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who oversees the census, said the count was “complete and accurate.”
The Census Bureau released a round of metrics that it said showed the 2020 count’s accuracy was comparable to previous decades’ tallies.
“We are confident that today’s 2020 census results meet our high data quality standards,” Mr. Jarmin said.
The data release was also a reminder of a failed initiative of President Trump.
He sought first to include a question about citizenship on the full 2020 count, but that fell victim to complex court proceedings and his own team’s corner-cutting.
Mr. Trump then tried to have the Census Bureau produce a second count in addition to the main count of all U.S. residents, but this time with illegal immigrants subtracted. The goal was to use that count to apportion the House seats.
Mr. Trump’s election loss cut that effort short.
Even though illegal immigrants, other noncitizens and people younger than 18 aren’t supposed to vote in federal elections, they are still counted for purposes of apportioning seats.
The Center for Immigration Studies, in a 2019 paper predicting the 2020 numbers and estimating illegal immigrant populations, said Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, West Virginia and Alabama lost out on an extra seat they would have had but for the inclusion of illegal immigrants in the population count. Texas, California and New York would be the winners, with Texas and California each coming out two seats ahead of where they otherwise would be.