Georgia in hunt for extra House seat

The 2010 census is due to be released by the end of December. The population statistics that will be included in the report will be followed by the required reapportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. So what is the chance of Georgia picking up one or more House seats?

That depends on the overall population distribution across the nation and, perhaps just as significantly, what happens in Michigan.

The apportionment of seats is based on population and occurs every 10 years following the census. The House is expected take up the issue of reapportionment in spring or summer 2011.

With a 2000 U.S. population of more than 281 million, that means that each of the holders of the 435 House seats currently represents approximately 647,000 citizens. That number will obviously change when the 2010 census numbers are totaled since the estimated population currently sits at approximately 311 million, an estimated increase of 30 million citizens since the last tally.

Most people are aware that many of the Sunbelt states have continued to increase in population in the past few decades while many of the states in the Northeast and upper Midwest Rustbelt have continued to lose population. And Georgia during those decades has been one of those states that has shown significant population growth.

Georgia’s population rose rapidly from 6.48 million in 1990 to 8.19 million in 2000 and has a July 2009 U.S. Census Bureau estimate of 9,829,211. Michigan had a 1990 population of 9.3 million followed by a 9.94 million population in 2000. Michigan’s 2009 estimated population stood at 9,969,277. The 2009 figures represent an estimated difference of 140,516 citizens between the two states.

Georgia in the 2000 census was the tenth most populous state, soon passing New Jersey and beginning to closing the gap on Michigan. Census data showed that Georgia from 2000-2009 grew by 1.64 million while Michigan’s population increased by 31,283 during the same period.

Meantime, North Carolina, too, continued to show significant increases in population and is now estimated (in 2009) to be the tenth most populous state with 9.3 million residents.

As the nation’s ninth most populous state, Georgia currently has 13 House seats. Michigan at number eight in population carries 15 House seats. Barring other swings impacting the population findings, that likely makes Michigan the state that Georgia must pass to gain an additional seat.

Georgia had 10 House seats for much of the mid-20th century. That number, commensurate with the increase in population, rose to 11 seats after the census in 1990 and to 13 seats after Census 2000.

By comparison, Michigan had 19 seats in 1970, 18 in 1980, 16 in 1990 and 15 in 2000.

Georgia was one of eight states to gain either one or two House seats after Census 2000. The population increases in six of the eight states, along with Nevada and Colorado, were in Sunbelt states following the decades-long migration from the Northeast and upper Midwest. Those states gaining two seats included, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arizona, while North Carolina, California, Colorado and Nevada gained one seat.

And where there were winners there were losers. The states losing House seats after Census 2000 were largely in the Northeast and Midwest: New York and Pennsylvania lost two seats each while Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Mississippi each lost one seat.

The results of the 2010 census are expected to be delivered to the White House on Dec. 21. The reapportioned House seats will be the subject of the 2012 elections, in time for the convening of the 113th Congress in January 2013.

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