The first batch of data came out from the U.S. Census Bureau last week, and the results for Oklahoma were pretty much what most people expected: steady growth and no change in the number of congressional seats. (Read my story here.)
For the record, Oklahoma’s population stood at 3,751,351 residents in April of this year. That’s up more than 300,000 people, or 8.7 percent, from the population in 2000.
The first Census numbers are important because they are used for the decennial apportionment of congressional seats. Oklahoma, which lost a seat after the 2000 Census, will stay at five House seats.
Overall, 18 states will trade 12 House seats in the 2012 elections. Texas, which added four seats, and Florida, with another two seats, were the big winners. Adding single seats were Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington. Among the losers are New York and Ohio, both of which will lose two seats. Meanwhile, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania each will lose one seat.
The population base for the apportionment numbers is slightly higher than what the Census counts as the resident population. That’s because the apportionment numbers include military and federal employees posted overseas. In Oklahoma, the apportionment population was 3,764,882. That included 13,531 Oklahomans overseas. The state ranked 24th in the number of residents overseas.
Apportionment tries to keep the number of people in each House seat at roughly the same levels. This year, the average number of residents in each congressional district reached 710,767 people. That’s up from 646,942 people in the average congressional district in 2000.
However, because of the way the apportionment formula works, not all states will have 710,767 people in each of their congressional districts. Before any seats are doled out on population, each state gets one House seat automatically. The remaining 385 seats are distributed according to a formula, called the “method of equal proportions,” that’s been in use since 1941.
The following chart shows each state’s average population per congressional district after the latest apportionment. Click for a larger version
As you can see, Oklahoma’s per-seat average is almost 42,000 more than the U.S. average of 710,767. Arizona and Wisconsin are pretty close to the average. Every state above them in the chart can be thought of as having disproportionately less influence per seat than the states below them. Seven states have at-large congressional seats; their populations range from 568,300 for Wyoming to 994,416 for Montana.
Keith Gaddie, a political science professor at the University of Oklahoma, said what counts in apportionment is the relative growth of states. Even though Oklahoma added 300,000 people in the last decade, its growth rate was still a full percentage point lower than the nation as a whole. And compared to Texas’ growth rate of 20.6 percent, Oklahoma is lagging. The Lone Star State added more than 4.2 million people in the last decade.
“Texas added more people over the last decade than there are in Oklahoma,” Gaddie said. “Texas grew so much, it grew an entire Oklahoma. Texas now has over seven times the voting power in Congress than Oklahoma does. In 1930, Texas only had twice the voting power in Congress that Oklahoma had. We appear to be headed in a very different direction in terms of the size and influence of the Congressional delegation.”
Despite that, the “redness” of the state will work in our favor once the 112th Congress begins in January. With the Republican takeover in the House, several Oklahoma lawmakers will get prime committee seats. For example, U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, will chair the House Agriculture Committee.
Gaddie said Oklahoma was 16th in line to add a House seat this time around. The state would have had to add another 125,000 new residents to gain a seat under the apportionment formula, according to Election Data Services.
There’s been some controversy over whether the Census Bureau should count undocumented immigrants when it comes to apportionment. Clark Bensen at Polidata Co. has some interesting comments about counting only citizens in Oklahoma and other states:
CITIZEN POPULATION: Had the apportionment been done on the basis of citizen population, there would have been many differences. Of course, the important caveat here is that this is merely an illustrative exercise because of both legal and technical considerations. To assess the rate of citizenship the source is the 2009 1-year release of the American Community Survey (ACS). Changes over the 2000 actual apportionment would have been significant had this rule been applied.
For example, using this estimate of the citizen population as the apportionment base:
a) CA would have not remained the same but lost 5 seats.
b) NY would have not lost 2 seats but lost 3 seats,
c) TX would have not gained 4 seats but gained only 2 seats.
d) OH would have not lost 2 seats but lost only 1 seat.
e) FL would have gained not 2 seats but gained only 1 seat.
f) other states that would have gained a seat or not lost a seat include: MT, OK, MO (not lost), IN, PA (not lost), and NC.
In the end, this kind of analysis is futile because the Fourteenth Amendment requires apportionment to count each person, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.
The data must be used to apportion the House seats among the states, although there is no constitutional requirement it be used to determine intrastate districts. It appears the term “whole number of persons” is broad enough to include all individuals, regardless of citizenship status, and thus would appear to require the entire population be included in the apportionment calculation. As such, it appears a constitutional amendment would be necessary to exclude any individuals from the census count for the purpose of apportioning House seats.
Written by Paul Monies