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Northeast, Midwest would lose seats in new Census Bureau estimate

But California also stands to lose a congressional seat for the first time in its history

The Empire State Building rises over the Vessel at New York City's Hudson Yards on Dec. 21, 2020.
The Empire State Building rises over the Vessel at New York City's Hudson Yards on Dec. 21, 2020. (Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

New York stands to lose two congressional seats, according to population estimates released Tuesday by the Census Bureau, making the state the biggest loser in the next apportionment if the official count comes out the same.

The Census Bureau constructed the estimate separate from the decennial count currently underway at the agency, and it is based on 2010 census results, along with birth, death and internal migration records. Using the estimate to apportion the 435 seats in the House, seven states would gain congressional seats while nine states would lose them.

California would lose a congressional seat for the first time in its history, according to the estimate. Most of the other states losing seats are concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest: Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota.

Those seats would filter south and west. Texas would gain three seats and Florida two under the estimates released Tuesday. North Carolina, Colorado, Montana, Arizona and Oregon would also gain seats.

The Census Bureau conducts several estimates of the U.S. population, each using different methods and reaching different conclusions. For instance, an estimate released by the agency last week pegged the national population to be between 330 and 335 million, but Tuesday’s estimate put the population at 329 million.

Only the decennial count itself, which the agency conducted this year and is currently finishing, determines the distribution of congressional seats. Decennial census results are also used to draw legislative maps and guide more than $1.5 trillion in federal funding annually.

The 2020 count has several caveats surrounding the final results though. President Donald Trump has directed the Census Bureau to exclude undocumented immigrants from apportionment results, which could shake up how the seats get distributed.

Texas, California, Florida and New York are all in the top 10 in terms of raw numbers for undocumented populations, according to a 2016 estimate from the Pew Research Center.

Additionally, the administration’s decision to shorten the count to meet an end-of-year deadline scrambled counting efforts — particularly in the South. Agency officials said they used methods they regard as less accurate, like proxy interviews or administrative records, to count people in such states as Florida, Alabama and Louisiana.

According to the estimate released Tuesday, Alabama would have the slimmest margin of any state, holding on to its seventh congressional seat by about 6,000 people. Apportionment under the same estimate produced last year had Alabama losing that seat.

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