Sunday, December 27, 2009

Congressional Reapportionment Could Hurt Democratic Presidential Candidates

There has been a lot of talk recently about how the census that's taken in 2010 will have an impact on redistricting. In Virginia, the focus has been on the process that would be used to draw the district lines and the hope that it would be done in a bipartisan or nonpartisan manner. This has been a topic of conversation that for years as people like Creigh Deeds have been trying to get legislation passed in the General Assembly that would address the issue. As the results of the census begin to be counted in just a few months, however, we should also be reminded that these results will actually determine the number of Representatives states have in the House of Representatives.

In the case of Oregon, there has been some talk about the state potentially picking up a 6th member of the House of Representatives. As Kari Chisholm explains at Blue Oregon, however, it appears as though that won't be the case.
If reapportionment were done today, based on the 2009 estimate, Oregon would not get a sixth congressional district. Oregon's prospective sixth seat would rank #438 - falling just outside of the 435 seats that will be filled.

For the third straight year, Oregon's population growth rate has dropped - from 1.70% in 2005-06 to 0.94% in 2008-09. That doesn't sound like much of a drop, but if we'd stayed at 1.7% for those three years, we'd have some 67,000 more residents - and a sixth seat would be a sure thing (#431).

Based on the 2009 estimate, Texas would gain three seats, while Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina would each gain one seat. Losing one seat each are Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Now this obviously will effect each one of those individual states, but there will also be some national implications as well. For instance, the size of a state's Congressional delegation directly determines its number of votes in the state has in the Electoral College. Based upon the projections that Kari put forward regarding which states would pick up seats in redistricting and the results of the 2008 election, this will result in advantage of at least four electoral votes for the Republicans. When you look at the actual breakdown of which states will actually be gaining and losing seats, however, the situation actually gets worse. Before we move forward, lets look at how Kari's projections play out in regards to the 2008 election.
Obama States that will gain a seat: Florida, Nevada, North Carolina
Obama states that will lose a seat: Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvannia

McCain states that will gain a seat: Texas (which will gain 3), Arizona, Georgia
McCain states that will lose a seat: Louisiana
If you look at the states that went for Obama, they are all swing states that had gone for Bush during both the 2000 and the 2004 election. They therefore cannot be relied upon to give their electoral votes to a Democratic candidate. To make things worse, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York are all solidly Democratic performing states in presidential elections and will be losing a seat.

In sharp contrast, the Republicans will pick up seats in states that have performed relatively well for them in recent years. This is a double wammy when you consider that Texas is actually picking up three seats. Perhaps a consolation could be that Louisiana has performed solidly for the Republican presidential candidates and it is projected to lose a Congressional seat.

To get down to the actual numbers, this means that the Democrats are projected to lose 4 solidly blue electoral votes, the total for swing states will stay the same, and there will be an increase of 4 electoral votes from solidly red states. This represents an eight point swing in the direction of the Republicans. Now this obviously wouldn't have changed anything in the 2008 election since Obama won by such a large margin (365 to 173), but the 2000 election was only decided by four electoral votes. This goes to show that these 8 votes could really make a difference in a tight election.


  1. What do you think Texas is doing that is generating so much of a population upswing? P erhaps Obama’s economic team should be investigating how to emulate Texas in other states?

  2. @Fever probably being a Mexico border state has something to do with the upswing in population.

  3. Do illegal immigrants count when they figure out the electoral seats?

  4. Actually I believe Texas (or more precisely the Triangle from Houston to Dallas/Fort Worth to San Antonio) has reached what Rostow called the "takeoff stage of economic development," where much of the mechanism of growth is internally generated (a stage which the Northeast, Industrial Midwest & California experienced long ago). Because of the level of economic activity, it has become a magnet for migration from other states (about 140,000 last year alone) and from abroad (about 90,000 last year); it also has high rates of natural increase, primarily because previous generations of newcomers have tended to be young and fertile. What has not helped the growth is the rather pathetic caliber of government (part Dixiecrat, part Plutocrat), particularly since 1994.

    And yes, the census is supposed to count everybody in the United States, because that is what the Constitution says; there is no mention of eligibility to vote as a requirement for enumeration.