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Wake Up To Politics - April 27, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: All your apportionment questions, answered
Wake Up To Politics - April 27, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 560 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,288 days away.

All your apportionment questions, answered

The U.S. Census Bureau released the first results on Monday from its decennial count of the American population. This data determines how many seats in Congress — and how many electoral votes — each state will have for the next 10 years, making it an important indicator of how much political power each state will wield in the coming decade. Let’s break down what that means and why it matters:

What is the census? In the United States, a host of important political calculations are made based on how many people are in each state, from how many seats the state has in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College to how much federal funding the state receives. The census is the process of counting up each person in the country to have the data to make those determinations.

It takes place every 10 years, as mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” (The clause about counting “three fifths of all other persons,” which referred to slaves, was removed by the 14th Amendment.)

The first census was in 1790 and the most recent one took place last year, in 2020.

What is apportionment? Once the Census Bureau has finished counting how many Americans there are, the agency then begins the process of divvying up House seats based on each state’s population. There are 435 seats to go around, and they are awarded using the Method of Equal Proportions, which the U.S. has used since 1941.

According to the Census Bureau, “this method assigns seats in the House of Representatives according to a ‘priority’ value. The priority value is determined by multiplying the population of a state by a ‘multiplier.’ Each of the 50 states is given one seat out of the current total of 435. The next, or 51st seat, goes to the state with the highest priority value and becomes that state’s second seat. This continues until all 435 seats have been assigned to a state.” (Here’s more information on how the method works, if you’re curious.)

A census takers knocks on the door of a residence in Florida. (John Raoux/AP)

So, which states gained House seats? Which states lost them?The Census Bureau announced Monday that, after conducting those calculations, 13 states had either gained or lost seats in the House of Representatives because of population changes.

Texas was the big winner, gaining two new House seats. Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon each gained one new seat as well.

California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia each lost one seat in the House.

What are the political implications of those changes? Republicans are generally seen to have benefited from the population changes recorded over the past decade and the new apportionment data released on Monday.

The GOP only needs five seats to retake control of the House; since the party controls the process of redrawing the district maps in Texas, Florida, Montana, and North Carolina (which are gaining a combined five new seats), it would be possible for Republicans to carve out the seats needed to flip the House as a result of the new apportionment numbers and careful redistricting alone.

On the other hand, it is mostly Democratic strongholds that are losing out on seats, including California (which lost a House seat for the first time in its history) and New York (which came just 89 people short of holding on to its last seat, which instead went to Minnesota).

The apportionment numbers will not only scramble the 2022 House elections: they will also matter for the 2024 presidential election, since a state’s Electoral College votes equals how many seats it has in the House plus its two senators. As the New York Times notes, “if the 2020 election was re-run with the new Electoral College numbers, President Biden would have won 303 electoral votes, instead of the 306 he took last November” — more than the 270 needed to win, but a narrower margin, since more states won by former President Trump last year gained electoral votes than states won by Biden.

The winners and losers from the 2020 census. (New York Times graphic)

What happens next? Now that each state knows how many House seats it will have, the redistricting process will soon begin in earnest. (States still have to wait for more granular redistricting data to come from the Census Bureau. That data normally would have been released by April 1, but its release has been delayed to September 30 because of the pandemic.)

Once again, during the redistricting process, Republicans are seen to boast an advantage because of their prowess in state legislatures: according to the Cook Political Report, Republicans will have the final authority to draw congressional lines in states totaling 187 districts; Democrats will have final authority in redrawing just 75 districts. Bipartisan commissions will draw 121 districts and the remaining 46 districts are from states that split control of redistricting between the two parties.

Because of this advantage, Cook estimates that Republicans could pick up as many as eight House seats due to redistricting — three more than the party needed to retake control of the chamber. (For more on how redistricting works, and how it can be manipulated for partisan gain through gerrymandering, listen to my podcast episode from last year.)

Bonus question: How many Americans even are there? This is another question that was answered by the new Census Bureau data. The agency counted 331,449,281 people living in the 50 states in 2020.

That is a 7.4% increase from the 308,745,538 residents recorded in 2010 — which makes for the second slowest rate of population growth the U.S. has seen since the census’ inception in 1790, behind only the growth between 1930 and 1940.

The fastest-growing region in the country was the South, which grew 10.2%, more than double the rate of growth for the Northeast or the Midwest.

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The Rundown

Some more headlines to know this morning.


  • President Biden is expected to announce today that the CDC has updated its guidance for whether vaccinated people needed to wear masks outdoors. CNN
  • The U.S. will begin sharing its entire stock of AstraZeneca vaccines — as many as 60 million doses — with other countries as soon as it clears a federal safety review, which could be completed in the “next several weeks.” Associated PressBIDEN ADMINISRTATION
  • The Agriculture Department announced the launch on Monday of what is believed to be “the largest summer food program in the country’s history.” It is slated to feed more than 30 million low-income children. NBC News
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Monday that the Justice Department would launch a civil investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department, adding to the scrutiny of the department since the killing of Breonna Taylor last year. Washington Post
  • Biden formed a White House task force to promote unions on Monday. New York Times
  • The president is also expected to sign an executive order today that will increase the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $15 an hour, from $10.95 an hour. AxiosIN THE STATES
  • California Republicans submitted the required number of petitions on Monday to trigger a recall election for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA). It will be the fourth gubernatorial recall election in U.S. history. Candidates are already lining up to run as alternatives to Newsom in the race, including reality TV star and onetime Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner. Los Angeles Times


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern.)

President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9:30 a.m. Later, at 1:15 p.m., he will deliver remarks on the COVID-19 response.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris will participate in a virtual roundtable at 4 p.m. with representatives from Guatemalan community-based organizations, as part of her diplomatic efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) to address the migration crisis.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold a day of virtual events and meetings with leaders and citizens of Nigeria and Kenya.
  • U.S. public health officials will hold a COVID-19 press briefing at 12:30 p.m.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 1:45 p.m.The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of the nomination of Jason Scott Miller to be Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget. At 11:30 a.m., the Senate will vote on Miller’s confirmation, followed by a cloture vote to advance the nomination of Janet McCabe to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The chamber will then recess until 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings.

    At 2:30 p.m., the Senate will vote on McCabe’s confirmation, followed by a cloture vote to advance the nomination of Colin Kahl to be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. The chamber is also expected to vote later in the day on Kahl’s confirmation and hold a cloture vote to advance S. 914, the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on the Interior Department’s onshore oil and gas leasing program. Gov. Mark Gordon (R-WY) and Brain Vallo, the governor of the Acoma Pubelo tribe, will testify.
  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on “supporting children, workers, and families by strengthening America’s child care sector.”
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing at 10 a.m. on “how social media platforms’ design choices shape our discourse and our minds.” Representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube will testify.
  • The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing at 10 a.m. on “curbing Covid cons” and “warning consumers about pandemic frauds, scams, and swindles.”
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing at 2:30 p.m. on U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, will testify.
  • The Senate Finance Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing at 2:30 p.m. on “creating opportunity through a fairer tax system.” Abigail Disney, the grand-niece of Walt Disney who has endorsed the “wealth tax” proposed by subcommittee chair Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), will testify.The House is not in session.
  • The House Republican Conference is in Orlando, Florida, for their annual retreat. According to Punchbowl News, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez will address the gathering today.
  • The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing at 2 p.m. on unaccompanied children at the border. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments at 10 a.m. in Hollyfrontier Cheyenne Refining, LLC. v. Renewable Fuels Association. “The justices will hear a complex case this morning about when the EPA can exempt small businesses from using renewable fuels,” WUTP legal contributor Anna Salvatore explains. “The dispute ‘hinges on the meaning’ of one word, ‘extension,’ in the Clean Air Act, according to SCOTUSblog.”

    The court will hear oral arguments at 11 a.m. in United States v. Palomar-Santiago. “When a non-citizen is deported from the U.S., they can be charged under federal law if they try to return,” Anna writes. “But what if their deportation order was invalid — in other words, what if the government made a mistake when deporting them? Can the noncitizen use that fact to defend themself? The Supreme Court will consider these questions today.”

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