by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Population data released Thursday by the Census Bureau will guide complex efforts around the country to draw new congressional districts through a process that, in many states, is likely to draw bitter opposition from Democrats.
The data showed the number of white people in the United States declined for the first time in history and that population growth overall slowed to its most sluggish pace since the 1930s.
Now, states will use the demographic numbers collected in the 2020 census to redraw congressional maps ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
Here is how the process will work.
Who has an advantage?
Because state legislators make most redistricting decisions, Republicans have the upper hand in drawing new maps.
Republicans control 30 state legislatures while Democrats control just 18, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. One legislature, in Minnesota, is split, and members of Nebraska’s unicameral legislature are elected on a nonpartisan basis and thus aren’t typically counted in such assessments of partisan control.
Republican governors outnumber Democratic ones; 27 states have a GOP governor, while 23 states are controlled by a Democrat.
Republicans also have comfortable majorities in some states that received extra congressional seats as a result of the 2020 census. In Texas, for example, Republicans have a 16-seat advantage in the state House of Representatives and a five-seat advantage in the state Senate, which only has 31 total seats.
Texas will get two additional congressional seats thanks to its population growth, and state Republicans will largely drive decisions about where to put the new districts.
Jeffrey Wice, an adjunct professor at New York Law School and senior fellow at the New York Census and Redistricting Institute, said Republicans will have to balance their advantage against the risk of legal challenges.