10 Takeaways from the Reapportionment Announcement

April 26, 2021 · 4:38 PM EDT

By Nathan L. Gonzales & Jacob Rubashkin

Nearly four full months late, the U.S. Census Bureau announced apportionment totals for the next round of redistricting. Here are some initial thoughts on the process and the fight for the House: 

•The House majority was in play before the reapportionment announcement and it’s in play after the reapportionment announcement. House Republicans need a net gain of just 5 seats in the 2022 elections. 

•Go West, Young Man. American political power continued its steady shift westward. Five of the seven new districts will be in western states (two in Texas, one each in Colorado, Montana, and Oregon). Six of the eliminated districts came from the East Coast and the Midwest (Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia). That said, Florida and North Carolina both gained a seat, and California lost a seat.

•Surprise! Less movement in fewer states. One of the big surprises was that fewer seats shifted in fewer states compared to pre-announcement estimates. Texas was estimated to gain three seats, while it only gained two. Florida was estimated to gain two seats and it gained one. Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon will gain a single seat each. Arizona was estimated to gain a seat but did not in the final data. An undercount of Hispanic voters is a logical explanation for this miss, but Census Bureau officials on the announcement call were not explicit and said it was within 1 percent of pre-census estimates.

Seven states will lose a seat: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Alabama were at risk of losing one district each but will maintain their current seat counts. 

•Big states to watch remain the same. Even though they didn’t gain as many seats as expected, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia are the big states to watch in the redistricting battle. Republicans control the process in all four and we’ll see how aggressive they get in order to maximize gains. 

•Popping Champagne in Providence. Democratic Reps. David Cicilline and Jim Langevin won’t have to face each other in a statewide primary after all. Somewhat unexpectedly, the state retained its second seat in Congress, meaning the two longtime colleagues can continue to run in their respective districts rather than fight over an at-large seat.

•Maps matter. While we now know which states will gain or lose seats, arguably the most important part of the process — the maps themselves — is still yet to come. Just because New York lost a seat and New York is a Democratic state, that doesn’t mean Democrats will lose a seat. Democrats are functionally in control of the redistricting process in the Empire State and it’s most likely Republicans lose a seat.

•Candidates matter. Just because maps are drawn to dramatically favor one party or one candidate, it doesn’t guarantee that outcome. A perfect example is Georgia Republican Max Burns’ election in 2002 over Democrat Champ Walker in a Democratic district drawn by Democrats.

•Environment matters. It’s hard to land on a set number for a gain or loss of seats due to redistricting because new lines are only one part of the process. The actual maps, the strength of individual candidates and the overall political environment will help determine how many seats Republicans and Democrats gain or lose. We’re months away from knowing where the precise districts will be and the voters’ mood.

•Census matters. According to Census Bureau officials on the conference call on Monday, New York fell 89 people short of not losing any seats at all. That’s quite a different result from some pre-announcement projections which showed the Empire State could lose two seats. The moral of the story is that it’s important to be counted because every person matters.

•Guaranteed Loss. Even before the maps are drawn and finalized, there is one thing we know for sure. Republicans will lose one seat in West Virginia. That means Republicans need to gain a seat elsewhere to compensate for the loss and get back to the five-seat gain they need for a majority.

Final Tally
States Gaining Districts (6)
Texas: +2 (from 36 to 38)
Florida: +1 (from 27 to 28)
Montana: +1 (from 1 to 2)
Colorado: +1 (from 7 to 8)
North Carolina: +1 (from 13 to 14)
Oregon: +1 (from 5 to 6)

States Losing Districts (7)
California: -1  (from 53 to 52)
Illinois: -1 (from 18 to 17)
Michigan: -1 (from 14 to 13)
Ohio: -1 (from 16 to 15)
Pennsylvania: -1 (from 18 to 17)
New York: -1 (from 27 to 26)
West Virginia: -1 (from 3 to 2)