The census, apportionment, and congressional redistricting are interrelated processes that occur every decade. The U.S. Constitution provides that a decennial census determines the distribution of U.S. House seats across states, though the federal government today also uses census data for other purposes, such as distributing funding to states and localities. The process of dividing House seats to states is known as apportionment (or reapportionment). Each state must receive at least one House seat, and additional seats are distributed proportionally based on state population size. States then engage in redistricting, creating or redrawing geographic subdivisions for each House district, with relatively equal-sized populations.
Timelines for the census and apportionment are provided in federal statute and generally occur as scheduled every decade. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, is affecting 2020 census field operations, and this could have consequences for the apportionment and redistricting processes that follow the completion of the census. This Insight provides background on the typical timing of the census, apportionment, and redistricting, as well as a brief discussion of recent census-related changes and proposals that may affect apportionment and redistricting following the 2020 census.
Apportionment and Redistricting Following the 2020 Census,” CRS Insight IN11360, March 17, 2021 (6-page PDF)
- Reapportionment / Redistricting / Gerrymander (CongressionalGlossary.com)
- Reapportionment and Redistricting (CongressionalGlossary.com)
- Ch. 1. E. Members of Congress, in Congressional Procedure
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