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New Census figures show 5-seat shift in Southern U.S. House districts
Texas, Florida and North Carolina gain seats; West Virginia loses a seat
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — The U.S. Census Bureau released population totals for reapportionment of U.S. House seats Monday that will alter the size of delegations in four Southern states.
Fast-growing Texas will be the biggest winner, gaining two seats to take its delegation to 38 members. Florida will get one new seat to go to 28, and North Carolina will gain one seat to go to 14.
However, West Virginia will lose one of its three seats, which could force Republican incumbents to run against each other in newly configured, larger districts.
West Virginia’s new delegation will be its smallest in history. The Mountaineer State has had at least three members of Congress since it entered the Union in 1863 and had as many as six in the 1950s.
Alabama dodged a bullet, keeping all of its seven seats. Some projections prior to release of the final numbers had shown the Yellowhammer State losing a seat.
Georgia will also not gain a seat for the first time in 40 years.
The new numbers will set off a legislative scramble in all four states, as new lines will have to be drawn.
Republicans will be in total control of redrawing lines in all four states. While North Carolina has a Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, state law doesn’t give him authority to veto reapportionment bills.
However, Texas and North Carolina are covered by the Voting Rights Act, which requires them to preserve electoral opportunities for minority candidates. In addition, a constitutional amendment passed in Florida in 2010 outlaws gerrymandering lines based on political considerations.
Legislators in West Virginia will have to decide which of the state’s three GOP House members — David McKinley, Carol Miller and Alex Mooney — to draw into the same district. As there are no statewide or Senate races in 2022, House members may be left with the option of competing in a primary or bowing out of Congress.
In Texas, due to demographic trends, Republican legislators may have to draw at least one majority Latino district, likely to be Democratic, in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act. But they could try to maximize Republican chances across the rest of the map, including helping out incumbents who survived Democratic challenges in 2018 and 2020.
No matter now the lines are drawn, litigation is likely in Texas, Florida and North Carolina, states where maps drawn after the 2010 Census were subject to lengthy court fights that resulted in court-ordered map redraws in all three states.
While Virginia is not gaining or losing a seat, its lines could also be substantially redrawn by a new independent commission. The maps after 2010 were drawn by Republicans, who have since lost control of the legislature and governorship, and then later redrawn by a federal court after a legal fight.
The Democrat-controlled Virginia legislature implemented an independent redistricting commission earlier this year.
Also, in Georgia, Republicans may redraw the map in metro Atlanta to target two Democratic incumbents — Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux — by combining Democratic areas currently in both of their districts into a single district, which could force one of them out of Congress.