For Republicans, 2010 is shaping up as a vintage year. First, in the midterm elections they won back control of the House and made big gains in the Senate. Now the 2010 census results have delivered more good news for the party: Most of the states that will gain House seats as the result of population growth lean to the GOP.
Twelve seats will shift as a result of the 2010 results, said Census Bureau director Robert Groves on Tuesday. Texas will gain four new representatives, and Florida will get two, while Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington will gain one each.
Of these winners, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah are red states, according to political scientist Charlie Cook’s Partisan Voting Index, which measures how strongly state populations are attracted to one party or another.
Nevada is a blue state – but barely so, according to the Partisan Voting Index. Only Washington among the gainers of seats is solidly Democratic.
States losing representatives, by contrast, disproportionately lean Democratic. Those who will have fewer House members are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
New York, a Democratic state, will lose two seats. So will Ohio, a classic swing state that the PVI rates as slightly Republican. All the remaining states that face subtraction of House lawmakers are blue, except for Missouri and Louisiana.
The number of congressional representatives in all other states will remain unchanged.
The trend in which the nation’s population drifts toward GOP-dominated states is not a new one, of course. Texas, for instance, has gained seats as a result of each of the last seven population counts. It reflects the larger demographic trend in which US residents are moving to America’s warmer climes.
In the 2010 results “we see the continuation of the multidecade trend of growth in the nation’s southern and western regions,” said Census Bureau chief Groves.
This decade, for instance, marks the first time in US history that the West, as a region, counts as more populous than the Midwest.
The presumptive new GOP House Speaker, John Boehner, isn’t going to see reinforcements from these numbers right away. The process whereby states set new congressional district lines, called redistricting, can be lengthy and contentious.
Starting next year, the states will use computer-generated maps reflecting voting data to carve out the new districts. Just because a state is Republican does not ensure new districts will vote Republican – that depends on where population growth occurred within the state, for one thing. Sometimes states just quietly agree to protect incumbents of both parties as much as possible, for another.
Plus, the Voting Rights Act is supposed to protect against the dilution of minority votes.
But the GOP will almost certainly come out of the process a net winner, given the preponderance of Republican states that get to add representatives.