The Census Bureau released the initial findings of its 2020 population count on Monday, and the data will lead to a recalculation of the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives apportioned to each state, which could upend the balance of power in Washington.
California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will all lose a congressional seat. Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon and Florida will gain one seat, while Texas will add two.
The changes are smaller than many analysts had predicted. Consulting firm Election Data Services, for instance, predicted in December that Arizona would gain a seat and that Texas would gain three and Florida two. It also saw New York losing as many as two seats and Rhode Island losing one.
Republicans maintained control of most state legislative chambers following the 2020 elections and the GOP has control of 27 out of 50 governorships, putting the party in a strong position to redraw legislative maps in a way that increases its odds of gaining seats during the 2022 congressional elections.
Texas, Florida and North Carolina could be where Republicans wield this power most effectively, given that the party has full control over the redistricting process in those jurisdictions. Republicans hold the governorships and majorities in both legislative chambers in Texas and Florida. In North Carolina, the governor is a Democrat, but he is unable to veto reapportionment measures passed by the Republican-held legislature.
At the same time, many longtime Republican strongholds in the South and West have seen their populations grow from an influx of people to major metropolitan areas where voters are more likely to lean Democratic, a trend that could complicate the GOP’s efforts to redraw congressional maps in a way that favors them. Democrats control the House of Representatives by a 218 to 212 margin, with 6 vacancies.
The Census Bureau found that the total population of the U.S. grew by 7.4% between 2010 and 2020, to 331,449, 281, the slowest pace of growth of any decade in history outside of 1930s, during the Great Depression.
The fastest growing state in the Union was Utah, which grew by 18.4%, while West Virginia shrank by 3.2%, making it the state that lost the largest share of its population over the past decade.