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Thursday, December 29, 2005

2010 Census Looks like Status Quo in Alabama, but Changes Loom Elsewhere

Though the next round of federal and state apportionment is still several years away, it is never too early to look toward the new maps. 2012 will be the first election cycle to employ the new districts.

The Census Bureau released its annual estimates of state populations recently. Using these estimates, demographic experts can extrapolate how these trends will continue over the next four years. This allows for predictions of the post 2010 apportionment of the US House of Representatives. Of course these are estimates only and trends can change, especially over several years. However, this new data gives observers an early look into how a post 2010 map would differ from the current set of lines.

From an Alabama perspective, the buzz words will be probably "status quo". Alabama's delegation looks likely to stay at 7 House seats, neither losing nor gaining a member. Alabama's 7 member delegation seems pretty secure as there are several states ahead in both the "lose" and "gain" lines. Simply put, it would take drastic variations in predicated shiftspopulation in Alabama and other states to see a change in the size of the House delegation. This, of course, also means that Alabama's 9 electoral votes will stay consistent through at least 2024 presidential election.

Though Alabama's delegation won't see any change for the fourth straight census (Alabama lost a seat after the 1970 count), there are potentially dramatic population shifts afoot in much of the country. The general trend is a population shift from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West. The current estimates have 11 seats shifting after the next census.

The Losers (States losing seats)
New York -- loses 2 (from 29 to 27)
Ohio -- loses 2 (from 18 to 16)
Pennsylvania -- loses 1 (from 18 to 17)
Michigan -- loses 1 (from 15 to 14)
Illinois -- loses 1 (from 19 to 18)
Minnesota loses 1 (from 8 to 7)
Iowa -- loses 1 (from 5 to 4)
Missouri -- loses 1 (from 9 to 8)

The Winners (States gaining)
Texas -- gains 3 (from 32-35)
Florida -- gains 3 (from 25 to 28)
Arizona -- gains 2 (from 7 to 9)
Nevada -- gains 1 (from 3 to 4)
Utah -- gains 1 (from 3 to 4)
Georgia -- gains 1 (from 13 to 14)

At first glance thse changes would seem to favor Republicans. George W. Bush carried each state that is gaining seats in both 2000 and 2004, while 8 of the 9 states losing seats were carried by Al Gore and/or John Kerry (Missouri being the exception). But Democratics have some reason for optimism because much of the growth in these states is among the Hispanic population. Since Democrats have long been nurturing and appealing to the Hispanic community, they see Florida, Arizona, and Nevada all trending in their direction throughout the decade. Democrats are even optimistic about long-term trends in Texas.

This type of growth explains the soft-pedaling approach national GOP leaders (Bush, Rove, etc) have taken on the issue of immigration. Many Republicans at the grassroots levels are increasingly fervent in their opposition to illegal immigration. However, Bush and the Congressional leadership does not want to alienate Hispanics just as they become able to wield significant influence. Republicans in California saw a generation of Hispanics flock to the Democrats after a GOP backed illegal immigration proposition was perceived as attacking illegal and legal immigrants alike. Republicans are not willing to risk such a national backlash for the short-term benefit of pleasing their base.

So if you want to stay on top of political trends and get a sense of the what the future has in store, check out the data from the Census Bureau and read the analysis by the Polidata group. Believe me, I only skimmed the surface of the useful content. There is much more detail and content in this report.


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