Texas, Florida and North Carolina are among the states that will gain congressional seats based on new population data from the U.S. census, a shift that could boost Republican chances of recapturing the House of Representatives from Democrats in next year’s midterm elections.
The overall U.S. population stood at 331,449,281, the Census Bureau said on Monday, a 7.4 percent increase over 2010 representing the second-slowest growth of any decade in history.
The release of the data, delayed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, sets the stage for a battle over redistricting that could reshape political power in Washington during the next decade. States use the numbers and other census data to redraw electoral maps based on where people have moved.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the 435 seats in the House and the votes in the Electoral College that select the president every four years are divided among the 50 states based on population, with every state receiving at least one congressional seat.
The seats are reallocated every 10 years following the decennial census count.
The shift in seats reflects broader population trends that have seen the South and West grow more rapidly than the Northeast and Midwest for decades.
Texas will receive two more congressional seats next year, and five states—Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Montana and Oregon—will gain one congressional seat each, the census bureau said.
New York, California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will each lose one seat. California, the most populous U.S. state, lost a congressional seat for the first time in its 170-year history.
The reapportionment can come down to razor-thin margins. If New York had 89 more people in the census count, for instance, it would have kept its seat at the expense of Minnesota, officials said.
The gains for states such as Texas, North Carolina and Florida, where Republicans control the legislatures, could be enough to erase Democrats’ current narrow majority in the House. Republicans in those three states have in the past engaged in aggressive gerrymandering, the practice by which maps are deliberately redrawn to benefit one party over another.