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Early census figures boost House Republicans' outlook

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Southern and western states emerged the big winners in the reapportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, as the federal government released the first figures from the 2000 census.

Map
Every state in the nation increased its population, with West Virginia recording the smallest growth at 0.8 percent over 1990 and Nevada recording the biggest gain, at 66.3 percent  

The U.S. Constitution mandates that seats in the House must be redistributed among states every 10 years following the census. Early data from the 2000 census put the U.S. population at 281,421,906 -- which will translate into each of the 435 House members representing approximately 625,000 constituents.

The numbers indicated some of the largest population gains in Arizona, Texas, Georgia and Florida -- providing each of those states with two additional congressional seats when redistricting is completed by state legislatures. California, Nevada, Colorado and North Carolina will also gain one seat apiece.

The news -- coupled with the loss of congressional seats in a handful of mostly Northeastern and Midwestern states -- has Republicans hoping they can widen their narrow majority in the House during the 2002 elections.

"The good news for Republicans is we will control more seats at the redistricting table than any other time since the 1920s," said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Virginia, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Republicans control the governorships and one or both chambers of the legislature in five of the states gaining congressional seats -- Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. Meanwhile, Democrats command the executive and legislative branches in North Carolina, Georgia and California.

The biggest losers will be New York and Pennsylvania, expected to give up two congressional seats apiece. Connecticut, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Mississippi will all lose one seat.

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(Source: U.S. Census Bureau)
 

Of those on the losing side of the ledger, Republicans hold an edge in six states -- New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Democrats hold firm control in Mississippi, while Connecticut and Oklahoma have Republican governors and Democratic-controlled Legislatures.

Representatives in the districts that disappear will lose their jobs after the next elections unless they seek a congressional seat in another district.

"Its going to be a pretty bloody fight in a number of states, especially in those states that are either gaining seats or losing seats," said Tim Storey, an analyst with Washington-based Conference of State Legislatures. "That's where politics and population factors come into play."

State legislatures can decide whether or not to use the controversial practice of statistical sampling when redrawing districts within their states. Statistical sampling techniques are favored by Democrats because they are believed to included larger numbers of black, Hispanic and other minority communities believed to be undercounted in a door-to-door census method.

"The Supreme Court ruled was that the Constitution requires that the allocation of the number of seats for each state has to be done based on an actual count," said CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

"But the court allows the states to use the estimated numbers ...for drawing the lines within each state to the determine what district every member of Congress and each state legislator represents."

The new census figures will also change the number of electors each state has in the Electoral College that chooses presidents. And they also determine the basis for the distribution of federal funds for projects such as roads and schools.


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Thursday, December 28, 2000

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