All those folks fleeing elsewhere puts Arizona on track for picking up a 10th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives beginning in 2022.
And that’s going to result in some political jockeying among current and would-be federal lawmakers as current members of Congress weigh whether to seek re-election in their own redrawn district or run in another. Then there’s the potential political musical chairs, with not just an open race for governor but Republican lawmakers eyeing a chance to oust newly elected U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly in 2022.
All that is the result of new preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau that show the state’s population has increased by slightly more than a million since the official decennial count in 2010. That’s a growth rate of 16.1%, which is the fifth highest in the nation.
By contrast, the entire country grew at just 6.7%. Only Utah, Texas, Idaho and Nevada had greater decade-over-decade growth.
What makes that important is that the House has a fixed number of representatives at 435. So if Arizona is growing so much faster than much of the rest of the country, it should get a bigger voice in that chamber. And states that haven’t grown as fast or whose populations have shrunk would lose.
Only thing is, it’s not a matter of simple math.
On paper, the current national population of nearly 329,500,000 would translate out neatly to individual congressional districts of about 757,434 people.
But Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services which analyzes the data, points out that the U.S. Constitution requires that each state have at least one representative.
So Vermont gets one, as does Wyoming, North Dakota and Alaska.
There’s also the fact that the population of the District of Columbia, estimated at about 713,000, effectively doesn’t count as it is not entitled to any representation at all.
Factoring all that out, Brace figures Arizona with its more-than-a-million growth since 2010 will get one more seat.
There are even bigger gainers.
The biggest is expected to be Texas, which Kimball figures will add three more seats, bringing its representation in the House up to 39. That’s based on adding more than 4.2 million new residents in the past decade.
Florida also is likely to pick up two more seats, moving to 29 representatives.
And along with Arizona, other states gaining a seat are Colorado, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon.
But where there are winners – and a 435-seat maximum – there have to be losers.
Brace said New York, which actually lost more than 41,000 residents according to the latest estimate, will drop at least one of its 27 seats in the House.
And he figures it actually could be a net loss of two.
That’s due to the bid of the Trump administration to exclude from the count those people who are not lawfully present in the United States.
The U.S. Supreme Court late last week sidestepped the legality of that move, with the majority of the justices concluding the case was not ripe for review because the administration had not said which individuals it wanted to exclude from the count. That potentially paves the way for a future ruling.
Brace figures that if undocumented individuals are excluded, that likely would cost New York a second seat. And the winner in that scenario appears to be Alabama, which might be able to hang on to all of its seven representatives.
California also is likely to lose a representative, leaving it with just 52 members in the House, but still far ahead of anywhere else.
Also declining would be Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
The analysis by Election Data Services of the newly released data shows that if Arizona gets 10 seats in the House, that means 10 districts each with about 742,000 residents to meet the legal mandate for equal population.
But the fact is that all parts of the state haven’t grown equally fast in the past decade.
The biggest growth rates have been in the Phoenix metro area, extending into parts of Pinal County. So it’s likely that a new congressional seat would have to be carved into that area.
That means even more clout for central Arizona. Six of the state’s nine congressional districts include parts of Maricopa County – add Pinal into the mix and now it’s seven.
It ultimately will be up to the Independent Redistricting Commission to decide where to draw the boundaries.
The bipartisan voter-created panel is required to consider a variety of factors, like respecting communities of interest and using county boundaries when possible.
Commissioners also are required to create as many politically competitive districts as possible. That means there is a mandate of sorts to take what have proven to be “safe” districts, like those occupied by Republican Andy Biggs and Democrat Raul Grijalva, and find ways to try to even them up by party registration.
The new lines, by definition, won’t match the existing districts. So incumbents will have to decide whether to continue to run in the district where they live or another district. Nothing in federal law requires a member of Congress to live in her or his district, though is usually is politically advisable.
Complicating matters is what else is up for grabs in 2022.
Kelly, elected this year to serve the last two years of the term of the late Sen. John McCain, would have to seek his own six-year term, assuming he runs. And that could prove tempting to Republican congressmen like Biggs and David Schweikert.
On the Democrat side, there is the chance that Congressman Greg Stanton might choose to run for governor – it will be an open seat with Doug Ducey unable to serve a third term – rather than seek another two years in Congress. And with Ducey out of the way, GOP members of Congress might eye that office.