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2020 Census: What the Reapportionment Numbers Mean

Today, the Census Bureau unveiled its official 2020 state population counts, determining how many House seats and Electoral votes each state will receive for the next decade. The detailed data needed to draw official district lines won't be released until the fall. But Republicans, who only need to pick up five seats to win back the House, enter the upcoming mapping wars with a clear advantage.

There was a much smaller shift than expected: only seven seats shifted between states, not the ten some estimates suggested. Texas was the big winner, picking up two seats. Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon each picked up one seat. But Florida and Texas both gained one less seat than expected, and Arizona missed out on picking up a seat — indicating a lower Hispanic count than estimates anticipated.

On the negative side of the ledger, seven states will lose one seat each: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia (this is the first time California will lose a seat since statehood). But Alabama, Rhode Island and Minnesota each breathed a huge sigh of relief, as they narrowly averted a loss. Amazingly, Minnesota beat out New York for the 435th and final House seat by just 89 residents.

The reapportionment counts alone offer a small net boost for Republicans: had the 2020 presidential election been held under the new apportionment counts, President Biden would have won the White House with 303, rather than 306, electoral votes.


2020 Reapportionment Results


The power shift from the Frost Belt to Sun Belt and western states is a familiar trend. But even states without a gain or loss will have to redraw lines to adjust for population changes in time for 2022 (except the six states with only one district). 

Republicans have the final authority to draw congressional lines in 187 districts, down from 219 seats in 2011. Democrats will have final authority in states totaling 75 districts, up from 44 in 2011. New bipartisan commissions passed by voters in Colorado, Michigan and Virginia bring the number of commission-drawn districts to 121 up from 88 ten years ago. And there are 46 districts in states where control is split between the parties, down from 77.


Who Controls Redistricting


Republicans' biggest redistricting weapons are Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina - and they could conceivably pick up all five seats they need for the majority from those four alone. Meanwhile, Democrats' most prized states are Illinois and Maryland. The biggest wild cards? New York and Ohio, where lopsided state legislatures could conceivably ignore new reforms and impose deeply partisan gerrymanders.

But already, there are some plot twists. Earlier this month, Oregon's Democrats relinquished exclusive authority to redraw maps in a deal struck to end legislative stalling tactics by the GOP minority — a deal that could cost Democrats at least one House seat.

Redistricting is sure to be disorienting — and in some cases, dislocating — for plenty of newer incumbents. After all the recent churn, there are only 157 current members — 37 percent of the House — who were around for the 2012 redistricting round. Incumbents faced with a hostile state legislature or unpredictable commission could find themselves double-bunked with another member or with a much less viable district to run in.

Below, we've mapped out 32 House incumbents — 20 Democrats and 12 Republicans — who we believe are at moderate to high risk from redistricting alone (excluding any other vulnerabilities), and another 71 incumbents who are at slight risk. For details on why some could be in danger and others are safe, be sure to check out our detailed analyses and maps for each state, available exclusively to subscribers.


Redistricting Risk Map


2021 Cook Redistricting Scorecard

To help you keep track of what’s unfolding, the scorecard below estimates how many seats each party might gain or lose in each state due to redistricting alone. For example, West Virginia is losing a seat, and because all three current incumbents are Republicans, we’re “scoring” it as a GOP loss of one. In Colorado, where a new competitive seat might be drawn, we’re listing a 0.5 seat gain for both parties.

These estimates are not hard and fast and will be updated frequently throughout 2021 and 2022. But right now, Republicans might expect to gain between zero and eight House seats via map changes — potentially enough to regain House control.


Image Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya