Reapportionment and Redistricting

Every ten years, following the decennial census, seats in the House are reapportioned among the states based on each state’s population relative to the other states.


Under the Constitution (Article I, Section 2), each state is entitled to at least one seat. Seven states, due to their small populations during the 2000 census received only one seat. These states included Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming, and these seven states will all remain at one House seat after the 2010 census. The largest state in the country, California, was apportioned with 53 seats after both the 2000 census and the 2010 census.

A shift of seats is typically explained by a rapid growth in some states in relation to other states. States may lose population from one census to the next. The results of the 2010 census have revealed a shift in population toward the West and the South. Leading the way were Texas, which will gain 4 seats, and Florida, which will gain 2 seats. Results of the census revealed that only one state, Michigan, actually lost population during the preceding ten year period.

States each gaining a seat for the 113th Congress a seat included Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Utah, Washington and South Carolina. New York and Ohio will lose two seats each while Illinois, Louisiana, Iowa, Michigan, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania each lose one House seat. As a result of the latest reapportionment, Florida will now be able to lay claim to the same number of House members as New York: 27 each. For the first time in history, California will not gain a House seat following a census and remain at 53 seats.

Once House seats are reapportioned, state legislatures, commissions, state and federal courts then redraw congressional district boundaries. The goal is to obtain an equal population for each district within the state, although other goals can include the favoring of a particular political party within some districts. Historically, court cases have been used for the purpose of challenging redistricting decisions. As a result, several states have been redistricted.

Reapportionment does not affect state representation in the U.S. Senate. Each state is entitled to two senators under the Constitution (Article I, Section 3), regardless of a state’s size or population. Reapportionment also does not affect nonvoting representation of American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands or Guam in the House.

Reapportionment is based upon the total resident population within each of the fifty states, but can also include federal employees, such as military personnel, that are stationed abroad. Nonresident citizens of other nations, foreign officials and residents of the District of Columbia, commonwealths and territories are excluded from the calculation.

Publications



Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook: A Practical Guide


Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: Citizen Advocacy in State Legislatures and Congress: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates


Testifying Before Congress


The Federal Budget Process: A description of the federal and congressional budget processes, including timelines

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