NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Pacific Northwest unlikely to gain U.S. House seats in 2020 reapportionment, data indicates

Short­ly before Christ­mas, the Unit­ed States Cen­sus Bureau released its 2014 State and Nation­al Pop­u­la­tion Esti­mates. Strik­ing­ly, the data released by the Cen­sus Bureau shows that the Unit­ed States’ pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing at slow­est rate since 1937. There is a par­al­lel: Then, as now, we were wit­ness­ing a com­bi­na­tion of recov­ery from a weak econ­o­my and a strict immi­gra­tion policy.

The aver­age year-to-year pop­u­la­tion growth has steadi­ly declined since 1990, which was the peak of the Echo Boom, mean­ing the increase in the fer­til­i­ty rate in the 1980s and 1990s as Baby Boomers reached their prime years for childbirth.

From 1990–2000, the aver­age year-to-year pop­u­la­tion growth was 1.30%, but only 0.924% from 2000 to 2010. That being said, Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion growth has reached a nadir not seen since the Great Depres­sion, with a year-to-year pop­u­la­tion growth of only 0.746% from 2013 to 2014.

Region­al­ly, as has been the case for decades, pop­u­la­tion growth in the West and South great­ly out­paced that observed in both the Mid­west and North­east in the past year (1.09% and 1.05% vs. 0.26% and 0.22%, respectively).

At the state lev­el, North Dako­ta out­paced the oth­er forty-nine states with 2.16% pop­u­la­tion growth in the past year, while six states — West Vir­ginia, Illi­nois, Con­necti­cut, Alas­ka, New Mex­i­co and Ver­mont — suf­fered pop­u­la­tion loss­es greater than in any year since 1991.

Among larg­er states (defined as those with pop­u­la­tions greater than eight mil­lion) only Texas, Flori­da and Geor­gia wit­nessed pop­u­la­tion growth greater than 1.0% in the past year, while Ohio, Michi­gan, Illi­nois and Penn­syl­va­nia had less than 0.2%.

While cen­sus reports give a great deal of soci­etal infor­ma­tion (age, ances­try, fam­i­ly size, com­mut­ing, com­put­er and inter­net use, edu­ca­tion­al attain­ment, health insur­ance, hous­ing, immi­gra­tion, income, lan­guage use, pover­ty, race, and so on), they also offer clues as to what may hap­pen in the next round of redistricting.

The size of the Unit­ed State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has been fixed for more than a cen­tu­ry at four hun­dred and thir­ty-five vot­ing mem­bers.

As a result, when seats are reap­por­tioned after a cen­sus, some states lose seats, while oth­ers gain them. This not only affects the rel­a­tive leg­isla­tive strength a par­tic­u­lar state has, but it also changes the make­up of the Elec­toral College.

The Elec­toral Col­lege is set at five hun­dred and thir­ty-eight elec­tors, based on there being four hun­dred and thir­ty-five U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and one hun­dred U.S. Sen­a­tors, as well as three elec­tors from the Dis­trict of Colum­bia. Con­se­quent­ly, it redounds to a zero-sum par­ti­san game as the addi­tion of a con­gres­sion­al seat to a blue state is a blow to Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial prospects and vice versa.

In the Pacif­ic North­west, pre­ced­ing the 2010 cen­sus, there were mul­ti­ple reports that Ore­gon and/or Wash­ing­ton appeared poised to gain an addi­tion­al seat.

Back in 2008, Kim­ball Bruce, pres­i­dent of Elec­tion Data Ser­vices, indi­cat­ed that Ore­gon was in a good posi­tion to gain a 6th Con­gres­sion­al seat.

“Ear­li­er in the decade, we did­n’t see Ore­gon gain­ing a seat, but Ore­gon is now show­ing a strong poten­tial,” he said at the time.

As it turned out, it was Wash­ing­ton that gained an addi­tion­al seat, not Ore­gon. After com­ing so close in 2010, we might be tempt­ed to think that Ore­gon would be in line for a new seat in 2020, but the data casts doubt upon that prospect.

It could be said that con­gres­sion­al appor­tion­ment is anal­o­gous to the selec­tion and seed­ing of teams for the NCAA men’s bas­ket­ball tournament.

While there is some sub­jec­tiv­i­ty in the selec­tion process for the NCAA tour­na­ment and none with con­gres­sion­al appor­tion­ment, both process­es both use a numer­ic val­ue in rank­ing and decid­ing which are in and which are out.

The con­gres­sion­al appor­tion­ment process uses what’s called “pri­or­i­ty val­ue” and the NCAA uses some­thing called the RPI (Rat­ing Per­cent­age Index) for seed­ing tour­na­ments. It should be not­ed that many posi­tions are auto­mat­ic: Each state has at least one U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, where­as the NCAA allo­cates one bid for each team that wins its con­fer­ence tournament.

There­fore, as with the NCAA tour­na­ment, we can con­sid­er those Con­gres­sion­al seats near the break point to be “on the bubble.”

That being the case, we can do a bit of brack­e­tol­ogy, where we make pro­jec­tions on what con­gres­sion­al seats will be in or out fol­low­ing the next cen­sus in 2020.

As back­ground, the afore­men­tioned “pri­or­i­ty val­ue” is cal­cu­lat­ed using the Huntington–Hill method, also known as the Method of Equal Pro­por­tions, due to it result­ing in a min­i­miza­tion of the per­cent­age dif­fer­ences in the pop­u­la­tions of the dif­fer­ent con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts. The cal­cu­la­tion is actu­al­ly very sim­ple, as it is the geo­met­ric mean of a state gain­ing its nth seat and not gain­ing that seat or (n‑1). This equates to D=\sqrt{n(n-1)}, where D is the “divi­sor.”

Then we divide a state’s pop­u­la­tion by the divi­sor for gain­ing that seat num­ber, n, and the result equates to its “pri­or­i­ty value.”

Thus, for Cal­i­for­nia, whose 2014 pop­u­la­tion esti­mate is 38,802,500, obtain­ing a sec­ond Con­gres­sion­al seat has a pri­or­i­ty val­ue of 2.74 x 107, which is equal to \frac{38,802,500}{\sqrt{2(2-1)}} or \frac{38,802,500}{\sqrt{2}}. For Cal­i­for­nia to add a third Con­gres­sion­al seat, the pri­or­i­ty val­ue is 1.58 x 107, or \frac{38,802,500}{\sqrt{6}}. But for Texas to obtain a sec­ond seat the pri­or­i­ty val­ue is 1.91 x 107 or \frac{26,956,958}{\sqrt{2}}.

There­fore, Cal­i­for­ni­a’s 2nd Con­gres­sion­al seat has the high­est pri­or­i­ty val­ue, next Texas’ 2nd Con­gres­sion­al seat, then Cal­i­for­ni­a’s 3rd Con­gres­sion­al seat.

It is note­wor­thy that we begin by cal­cu­lat­ing the pri­or­i­ty val­ue for a state gain­ing a sec­ond con­gres­sion­al seat, since the Con­sti­tu­tion, in Arti­cle 1, Sec­tion 2, Clause 3, dic­tates that “each State shall have at least one Representative.”

Thus, once we account for there being at least one rep­re­sen­ta­tive from each state, there are three hun­dred and eighty-five con­gres­sion­al seats left to be divvied up among the states using the Hunt­ing­ton-Hill method with the high­est three hun­dred and eighty-five pri­or­i­ty val­ues for indi­vid­ual con­gres­sion­al seats being grant­ed and those with low­er pri­or­i­ty val­ues not.

Below is a chart, fol­low­ing the 2010 Cen­sus, of the con­gres­sion­al seats with pri­or­i­ty val­ues ranked from 371 to 400, i.e. the final fif­teen con­gres­sion­al seats grant­ed and those 15 Con­gres­sion­al seats that fell just short.

Pri­or­i­ty RankingStateCon­gres­sion­al Seat
375New York27
380South Car­oli­na7
386North Car­oli­na14
388New York28
389New Jer­sey13

As is obvi­ous, the final con­gres­sion­al seats award­ed were (in order): Cal­i­for­ni­a’s 53rd, Flori­da’s 27th, Wash­ing­ton’s 10th, Min­neso­ta’s 8th and Texas’ 36th, while those falling just short were North Car­oli­na’s 14th, Mis­souri’s 8th, New York’s 28th, New Jer­sey’s 13th, and Mon­tana’s 2nd.

Ore­gon’s 6th Con­gres­sion­al seat was ranked 393 fol­low­ing the 2010 cen­sus, eight places short of being awarded.

It is worth men­tion­ing that fol­low­ing the 2014 Cen­sus Pop­u­la­tion Esti­mates, if the Con­gres­sion­al reap­por­tion­ment were to take place at the cur­rent moment, only two seats would be lost — Min­neso­ta’s 8th and Penn­syl­va­ni­a’s 18th Con­gres­sion­al seats — and only two seats would be gained — North Car­oli­na and Texas gain­ing a 14th and 37th Con­gres­sion­al seats, respectively.

But if we were to wit­ness the same state-by-state growth from 2014 to 2020 that we observed from 2010 to 2014 — admit­ted­ly a mas­sive assump­tion — the below table shows the pro­ject­ed “bub­ble” con­gres­sion­al seats.

Pri­or­i­ty RankingStateCon­gres­sion­al SeatChange
369New Jer­sey12
371New York26
372South Car­oli­na7
380North Car­oli­na14+1
384New York27
392West Vir­ginia3-1
395Rhode Island2-1
405New York28

As we can see, the trend of west­ern and south­ern con­gres­sion­al seats ris­ing in the rank­ings, while con­gres­sion­al seats in the North­east and Mid­west fall.

The only state that is pro­ject­ed to gain or lose mul­ti­ple seats is Texas, which picks up three. Oth­er states gain­ing seats are Cal­i­for­nia, Col­orado, Flori­da, North Car­oli­na, and Vir­ginia. The states pro­ject­ed to lose one Con­gres­sion­al seat are Alaba­ma, Illi­nois, Michi­gan, Min­neso­ta, Ohio, Penn­syl­va­nia, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

Nation­al­ly, it’s worth not­ing that states where Pres­i­dent Oba­ma won in 2012 would lose four elec­tors in the Elec­toral College.

While the Pres­i­dent won the Elec­toral Col­lege by an over­whelm­ing 332 to 206 mar­gin in 2012, we need only look back to the con­test­ed Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of 2000 to see where a few Con­gres­sion­al seats can make a difference.

If, say, in 2000 Cal­i­for­nia had four more Con­gres­sion­al seats and Texas had four few­er, Al Gore would have won the Pres­i­den­cy, even with the Supreme Court rul­ing that Bush won Flori­da. There­fore, a net gain of eight elec­tors in the Elec­toral Col­lege by red states could be significant.

As I men­tioned ear­li­er, Ore­gon does not appear to be in line for a sixth con­gres­sion­al seat. This is due to a very mod­est growth in the state from 2010 to 2013 of 2.58%, which is only slight­ly greater than the nation­al pop­u­la­tion growth over that peri­od of 2.39%.

On the oth­er hand, Ore­gon had a far bet­ter 2014 with a year-over-year growth rate of 1.07%, while nation­al­ly the pop­u­la­tion grew by 0.746%.

Ore­gon’s hypo­thet­i­cal sixth seat is there­fore pro­ject­ed to move up the pri­or­i­ty val­ue rank­ing six places from three hun­dred and nine­ty-three to three hun­dred and eighty-sev­en — two short of it being award­ed. If state pop­u­la­tion growth stays steady (again, a major assump­tion) Ore­gon would need to grow by 14,612 more than the pro­ject­ed 332,890 pop­u­la­tion gain to be giv­en an addi­tion­al seat.

As for Wash­ing­ton, we’ve wit­nessed sol­id growth of 4.74% over the past four years mak­ing it the eighth fastest grow­ing state over that time-span. That being said, Wash­ing­ton is a long way from gain­ing an eleventh con­gres­sion­al seat with it being pro­ject­ed to be ranked 414 in pri­or­i­ty val­ue in 2020.

Region­al­ly, the only West­ern states pro­ject­ed to gain a Con­gres­sion­al seat are Col­orado and Cal­i­for­nia, while Ore­gon, Ari­zona, and Mon­tana are three of the four states pro­ject­ed to near­est to gain­ing an addi­tion­al seat.

Sub­se­quent cen­sus pop­u­la­tion esti­mates will give greater clar­i­ty as to what the post-2020 Con­gres­sion­al appoint­ment shall be, but cur­rent­ly both the North­west and the West­ern U.S. are not fore­cast as gain­ing much pow­er in Congress.

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