On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau announced its 2020 Census results. The results show the country’s population count at 331,449,281 residents as of April 20, 2020. Not surprisingly, California remains the most populous state in the union with 39,538,223 residents, while Wyoming came in as the least populous state with 576,851 residents.
On the same date, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo delivered the population counts to President Biden to be used for apportioning the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Each state must receive one House seat and additional seats are distributed proportionally based on state population size. Over the history of the past 23 decennial censuses conducted, with the year 1790 being the first census completed and 2020 being the 24th, the House has more than quadrupled in size (from 105 to 435 seats), and each member will now represent an average of 761,169 people.
As it follows in Title 2 of the U.S. Code, a congressionally defined formula is applied to the apportionment population to distribute the 435 seats and as a result of the count, Texas will gain two House seats, five states will each gain one seat (Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon), seven states will lose one seat each (California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia), and the remaining states’ number of seats will remain the same. These changes in apportionment go on to inform the actions that will take place at the state level in congressional redistricting, which also takes place every 10 years. The census, apportionment, and congressional redistricting are all an interrelated process.
As a result of the 2020 census, California has, for the first time in its history, lost a congressional seat. California will go from holding 53 congressional seats (equaling Electoral College votes during a presidential election), to holding 52 congressional seats starting in 2022 because of a decrease in its population growth. Over the past decade, California’s average annual population growth rate slipped to 0.06% — lower than at any time since at least 1900. As to what has caused this decrease, experts point to three major factors: declining birth rates; a long-standing trend of fewer people moving in from other states than leaving; and a drop in international immigration, which has in the past made up for residents moving to other states.
California is one of the few states in the nation to redraw its voting district lines via a Citizens Redistricting Commission. This body will soon be handed the task to redraw the state’s congressional districts by eliminating one district in the process. Preliminary data points to losing that congressional seat in the greater Los Angeles area. Redistricting data include the local area counts states need to redraw or “redistrict” legislative boundaries.
The U.S. Census Bureau will begin the additional activities needed to create and deliver the redistricting data that were previously delayed by the pandemic. Because of modifications to processing activities, data collections delays, and the Census Bureau’s obligation to provide high-quality data, states are expected to receive redistricting data by August 16, and the full redistricting data with toolkits for ease of use will be delivered by September 30.
Because the timeline to deliver the data and toolkits to complete the redrawing of new district lines has been considerably altered, California is now looking to possibly push out its own timeline for primary elections next spring.
While we may not stop to think much about a process that comes around every 10 years and what its numbers in population counts mean, these numbers in fact set off an interesting chain of events.
Gabriela Villanueva is CAP’s Government & External Affairs Specialist. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to gvillanueva@CAPphysicians.com.