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10 House districts that are sure to change after census release

Growth around cities means some members represent too many people — and some too few

The Houston-area district of Texas Rep. Troy Nehls will have to shed more than 200,000 people to get down to the ideal size state lawmakers have to reach in redistricting.
The Houston-area district of Texas Rep. Troy Nehls will have to shed more than 200,000 people to get down to the ideal size state lawmakers have to reach in redistricting. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Texas’ 22nd District will look almost nothing like it does now after redistricting in the next few months.

The Houston-area district represented by freshman Republican Troy Nehls grew by more than 200,000 people since lawmakers drew the state’s maps in 2010 and is now home to 972,000, according to 2020 census results released Thursday. Almost every district in the country will change somewhat as a result of in-state population shifts, and the average congressional district will get larger by population. 

Some districts, however, stand out by how much their populations grew or declined. 

That’s especially true for those in states that are gaining or losing congressional seats following the reapportionment of the 435-member House. Texas gets two new seats, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon each gained one. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will each lose a seat.

Initial demographic data provided by the Census Bureau showed that the fastest growth over the past decade came from metropolitan areas, with larger counties tending to gain people while smaller counties were more likely to see losses.

Additionally, most of that growth came from minority populations; Americans describing themselves as white and no other race dropped below 60 percent of the population for the first time in the nation’s history.

Here’s a look at 10 districts that are very likely to change as state legislators or commissions try to get their House districts as close to equal in population as possible. This analysis does not include North Carolina because its map was redrawn in 2020 by court order, and data released Thursday could not be quickly compared to the 2010 census.

Texas’ 3rd, 10th, 22nd and 26th districts

Suburbs of Texas’ major cities — Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston — host some of the fastest-growing congressional districts in the country. Four of them now have at least 900,000 residents, all stretching across the suburbs of major cities. 

When drawing the state’s new congressional map, the Republican-controlled Legislature will have to make every district roughly the same size, at about 763,000 people. That means taking more than 200,000 people out of Nehls’ 22nd District, south and west of Houston, and almost as many from the GOP-held 3rd District (Van Taylor), 10th (Michael McCaul) and 26th (Michael C. Burgess). 

The new districts lines will also have to take into account the growth of the Hispanic or Latino population, which is nearly the largest demographic group in the state at 39.3 percent compared with white Texans at 39.7 percent.

Maria Teresa Kumar, CEO of advocacy group Voto Latino, said she hopes Texas will allocate more of its districts to Hispanic and Latino communities, pointing out that the majority of the growth has come from increases in the Hispanic population.

“One of the biggest challenges here is going to be how do you have a fair allocation of a state’s seats based on population growth,” she said.

Adam Podowitz-Thomas, legal adviser to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, said  Republican legislators may also look to the Rio Grande Valley for new seats with Hispanic-heavy populations. 

Almost all of the growth in border areas has come from the Hispanic population and after many of the counties there voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden in the last election, legislators may look for a Hispanic-dominated Republican-leaning seat in the area, Podowitz-Thomas said.

Florida’s 9th

Florida’s 9th District, represented by Democrat Darren Soto, rocketed to more than 950,000 people in 2020, the largest population in the state. 

That came from explosive growth in the Hispanic population of the Orlando-area district, going from 242,000 in 2010 to more than 400,000 in 2020. Over the past several years, Census Bureau surveys have found that a significant number of people from Puerto Rico — which saw its overall population drop over the decade — settled in Central Florida.

At more than 950,000 people, state lawmakers will have to draw 190,000 of them into other districts or the state’s new district to bring Soto’s seat, which was redrawn before the 2016 election, down to the state average. The Republican-controlled Legislature will have to shake up the map for much of Central Florida, where several districts have seen their populations grow to more than 800,000, including the 10th, which Democrat Val B. Demings is vacating to run for Senate, the 11th (held by Republican Daniel Webster) and the 12th (held by Republican Gus Bilirakis).

Montana’s at-large district

This seat is disappearing entirely as Montana gains back the second House seat it lost following the 1990 reapportionment.

For next year’s election, the state’s 1.08 million people will have to be divided between two districts, which will become the smallest in the country.

New York’s 23rd

New York’s 23rd District, represented by retiring Republican Tom Reed, is the smallest in the Empire State. Located along New York’s Southern Tier, the seat fell behind the rest of the state, with 694,000 people, per the 2020 count.

New York is losing a district for the eighth decade in a row, meaning lawmakers will be looking for a place to cut in the map. Reed, who announced his retirement earlier this year following harassment allegations, would leave his seat without an incumbent to target.

Other nearby Republican-held districts, such as Claudia Tenney’s 22nd and Chris Jacobs’ 27th, are also smaller than the state’s new ideal district size of 776,000 people. The 22nd has 696,000 people and the 27th has 720,000.

Wests Virginia’s 3rd, Ohio’s 6th and Pennsylvania’s 15th

West Virginia’s 3rd District has shrunk over the decade to 570,000 people, Ohio’s 6th to 687,000 and Pennsylvania’s 15th, under its current lines, to 674,000. 

Each of these districts is the smallest in states slated to lose a seat come 2022. All three are represented by Republicans and stretch across rural parts of former steel and coal production areas that are overwhelmingly white and where residents tend to be older than the rest of the country. 

In West Virginia, second-term Rep. Carol Miller represents the 3rd District, which covers the southern portion of the state. Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson, first elected in 2010, represents the 6th District, which encompasses much the state’s border with Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In Pennsylvania, Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson represents the 15th District, which was redrawn in 2018 and now stretches across much of northwestern Pennsylvania, north of both Pittsburgh and Harrisburg and east of Erie.

Even if these incumbents win reelection next year, their districts would have to add population to pass legal muster — all while their states are losing a seat each.

West Virginia state legislators will have to draw two districts with more than 896,000 people each. In Ohio, mapmakers would have to add more than 90,000 people to Johnson’s district to bring it up to par with the rest of the state. In Pennsylvania, state lawmakers will have to draw 17 districts averaging 764,000 people. That doesn’t necessarily mean Thompson’s seat will be drawn out; nearby Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb recently announced a run for the state’s open Senate seat.

Podowitz-Thomas noted that legislators frequently balance the interests of incumbents against each other when drawing new maps — meaning residents from Lamb’s district may be siphoned off into others in the western part of the state.

“Because there’s no incumbent in that seat it’s sort of an easy seat for the legislature to choose to knock out even though it’s a Democratic seat,” he said.

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