The Re-Apportionment of Congressional Seats Promises Some Surprises in the Future

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

As was covered here by Red State on Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau released its determination regarding the reapportionment of House seats in the next United States Congress based on the results of the 2020 Census.

Texas gains two congressional seats, while Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Montana, and Oregon each gain one seat.

California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia all lose one seat each.

The political impact of this redistribution of congressional seats results in two primary ways.  First, the movement of House seats changes the number of electoral votes of the affected states during each Presidential election.  Second, changes made to district boundaries in the states gaining or losing seats can significantly impact the ability of one party or the other to prevail in House elections for those seats every two years.

As for the impact on the Electoral College, the changes are almost insignificant. If the 2020 election results were recalculated using the new number of electoral votes for each of the affected states, Joe Biden won have won only 3 fewer electoral votes, as losses of votes in California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, would have been offset by votes he would have gained in Colorado and Oregon.

The more immediate impact of the new numbers will be in the outcome and aftermath of the 2022 mid-term elections in the House of Representatives.

All fifty states will engage in the once-a-decade redrawing of the boundaries of congressional districts using the new demographic data provided by the 2020 Census.  In the states gaining seats that are dominated by the GOP in state government — Texas, Florida, and Montana — this is almost certain to result in four new districts that will likely be won by GOP candidates in 2022.

In a similar fashion, you would expect the GOP-dominated state governments in Ohio and West Virginia will seek to redraw district boundaries in such a way as to eliminate a congressional district that is currently held by a Democrat.

The same will likely be true in Illinois and New York, where the Democrat-controlled state governments are likely to redraw their district boundaries to accomplish the goal of eliminating a congressional district currently represented by a Republican.

But the outcome of redistricting in the remainder of the states adding/losing congressional districts is far from clear.

Let’s consider Oregon first, which is gaining a seat. The preliminary census data from 2019 showed that Oregon’s population gain between 2010 and 2020 was approximately 400,000 residents, so it is not surprising that Oregon gained a 6th House seat.  Oregon’s current congressional delegation has four Democrats and only one Republican.  But a large proportion of Democrat voters in Oregon are located in the counties surrounding metropolitan Portland, while the remainder of the more rural areas of the state has long been more GOP friendly.

While Joe Biden won Oregon 56.5 to 40% over Pres. Trump (allegedly), two incumbent House Democrats won re-election with less than 52% — and both of their GOP opponents ran in the mid-40s. Any effort to bolster the number of Democrat voters in those two vulnerable districts to support the incumbents would likely put any newly drawn district in play for the GOP.   Drawing a strong Democrat-leaning new district in the metro-Portland area could cost the Democrats one or both of the more marginal seats as GOP support in both districts is increasing.

California is now a complete one-party state, dominated at every level of politics by some of the most radical elements of the Democrat Party.  But an Amendment to the California Constitution passed by voters in 2008 makes it very difficult for elected state government officials to have significant influence in the drawing of new district boundaries in such a way as to ensure that a GOP congressional district will be the one eliminated.

Pursuant to the Amendment, California now has a “California Citizens Redistricting Commission.”  It is comprised of 14 members — 5 registered Democrats, 5 registered Republicans, and 4 members expressing no party preference.  The members were part of an applicant pool of 60 registered voters.  Legislative leaders from each party were allowed to reduce the size of the applicant pool by striking individual members.  Once the pool was reduced, four Democrat members and four Republican members were picked by lottery from the remaining pool.  Those 8 Commission members jointly selected the 4 members expressing no party preference.

The Commission members will work with Commission staff to draft new congressional boundaries.  For any map to be approved, a majority of each of the three subgroups on the Commission must vote in favor — 3 out of 5 Democrat members, 3 out of 5 GOP members, and 3 out of 4 expressing no party preference.

There are rumors in California circles that because of demographic changes, it is quite possible that the geographic area losing a congressional district will be metropolitan Los Angeles.  Because nearly all the metro Los Angeles congressional districts are represented by Democrats, the non-partisan Commission might end up eliminating a Democrat seat — which is not something that Nancy Pelosi wants to see happen.

Colorado, which is also controlled at the state level by elected Democrats, will for the first time be using a Commission to draw new congressional district boundaries in 2021. The Colorado commission will have 12 members — 4 Democrats, 4 Republicans, and 4 with no party preference. To approve a new congressional district map, it must be approved by 8 of the 12 Commission members, including 2 of the members with no party preference.

Just about every sign is pointing to a substantial swing in the House in favor of the GOP in 2022, and the Republicans should regain control of the House with a significant majority.

Hopefully, it won’t be too late.