2020 Census & Texas

US News & World Report's Lindsey Cook recently described how about ten states, including Texas, stand to gain Congressional seats through the redistricting process based on the 2020 US Census. 

Editor's Note: Every 10 years, the U.S. Census takes a new measure of the American population. It’s more than a mere headcount. The outcome governs the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and how many electoral votes each state will cast in presidential elections. In this series, Best States focuses on states that will gain and lose clout after the 2020 Census, and how the national political ground is shifting as a result.

Mandated by the Constitution to occur every 10 years, the next Census in 2020 will count residents of each state in the U.S. Those counts will be used to redistribute votes in the Electoral College, and to redraw congressional districts in each state -- those midterm changes effective for the 2022 elections. The first time the new numbers will be used in a presidential election will be 2024.

Specifically, projections from Election Data Services based on the latest annual Census estimates found that the biggest winner should be Texas, which stands to gain three or four electoral votes with the 2020 Census. Florida should gain two. Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Oregon should each gain one. This means that key swing states such as Florida, Colorado and North Carolina will only gain political power.

Understanding the Electoral College

The international population of U.S. residents is expected to grow nationally, according to the Census Bureau. In 2000, 11 percent of the U.S. population was born in another country. In 2020, when the Census is taken, that number is expected to be 14 percent. By the Census projections for 2060, it will be 18.8 percent.

At the same time, the type of immigration has changed. While European countries used to send the most people to the U.S., Latin America and Asia lead the way now, and many of those immigrants are more educated, wealthier and more likely to move to urban areas. Also, they're more likely to be Democrats.

The 2020 Census also triggers redrawing of local maps in many states, known as redistricting, including drawing new districts in states that will gain Electoral College votes. Because the party in control of the state legislatures controls the drawing of maps in many states (and can make them more favorable to its own party), 2020 has set off an arms race to gain control of state and local contests.


Partisan Redistricting and the 2020 Census

On June 25, 2018 a Supreme Court ruling on redistricting gave advocates of voting rights hope for future fairer voting patterns. Protests Texas Democrats already had scheduled for that day gained more meaning as the Court delivered a complex ruling mostly upholding Texas redistricting in Abbot v. Perez. https://www.scribd.com/document/382529759/Abbot-Et-Al-v-Perez-Et-Al-Opinion

The Supreme Court upheld maps for Texas' congressional and state house districts, ruling that most of them were not "tainted" by racial discrimination. It did, however, rule that House District 90 was gerrymandered against Latinos.

Texas advocates say they already were planning to launch a "RestoreTheVote" campaign, attacking the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which they argue "gutted" the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).

Partisan political and racial gerrymandering distorts and undermines representative democracy by allowing officials to select their voters rather than voters to elect their officials. When done for purposes of racial discrimination or to ensure the dominance of one political party, gerrymandering runs counter to equal voting rights for all eligible voters. [lwv.org]

Given the Supreme Court’s apparent indifference, across the country independent maps will not be drawn until popular sentiment forces a change. There is a growing cry across Texas for fair maps and candidates for November’s election will be asked to take a clear side, and advocates hope voters hold them to their commitments.

But no maps from any process will be accurate if the underlying numbers aren’t right. That’s why the next fight is the 2020 Census. It is critical that 2020 US Census results reflect the actual demographics, and given the trends of shifting populations, Texas in particular may fail to show who actually resides here.

In March, the US Commerce Department announced the decision to put a citizenship question on the Census, laying the groundwork for an inaccurate and costly 2020 Census. Since 1950, the Census Department has been able to conduct a scientifically accurate census count without this question, and presidential administrations have refrained from making the census a political target. An accurate count of our population is important not only for determining how many representatives our state will have but also for allocating billions of dollars in federal funds and grants annually.