News

California loses Congressional seat for first time

California loses one of 53 House seats after 2020 Census found the Golden State's population growth slowing. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

Lea este artículo en español.

For the first time in its 171-year history, California's political voice is about to get a little quieter.

After months of delay, the U.S. Census Bureau on Monday released new population estimates for each state. The bad news for California: It loses a seat in Congress, down from 53 House districts to 52.

The worse news: Not only does that mean the state will have one fewer representative in the House, it also means one fewer vote in the Electoral College that decides the presidency and proportionately less of the $1.5 trillion in federal money distributed by population each year.

Maybe the hardest news to take of all: While California is seeing its national stature shrink ever-so-slightly, that power is being shunted to our faster-growing rivals, Texas (which adds two seats) and Florida (which gets one). In all, seven House seats will shift among 13 states, the smallest change since 1941.

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The federal government is required to conduct the census every 10 years. That data is used to dice the country up into 435 roughly equally sized congressional districts.

"It's a fixed pie, and California did not grow as fast as the rest of the nation," said Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California, speaking Monday at a UC Riverside webinar on the new census data.

Between 2010 and 2020, the national population increased by 7.4% to 331.4 million, according to the bureau's new figures. That's the second smallest increase in the 24 decades the census has been done. California's population grew by even less, just 5.9%, from 37.3 million to 39.5 million residents.

Census officials said that while California recorded more births than deaths over the decade and the state added international residents, more people moved to other states than came here. There's another potential factor: Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to allow the Trump administration to place a question about immigration status on the 2020 census. Still, activists and Democratic elected leaders said the high-profile effort might discourage undocumented immigrants from participating and lead to an undercount in states with large non-native born populations like California.

The loss of a congressional seat is also likely to fuel a narrative peddled by conservatives that Californians are fleeing an expensive Democratic-governed state in search of cheaper, less regulated climes.

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Sure enough, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who plans to challenge Gov. Gavin Newsom in the recall election that on Monday became all-but-certain to happen later this year, used the announcement by the Census Bureau to bash the governor. "Gavin Newsom's policies have been an assault on affordability and livability for families across this state. Californians are being forced to leave their home state in droves," Faulconer said in a campaign press release.

Though the number of new Californians has been slowing for decades, a Public Policy Institute of California analysis found that rising net migration from California to other states has become an increasingly significant "drag on the state's overall population growth."

An analysis of the new data conducted by the state Department of Finance and shared by department spokesperson H.D. Palmer disputed the notion that outward domestic migration was to blame for California's lost seat and instead pointed the finger at former President Trump's nativist immigration policies.

"Domestic flows out to other states were more than offset by international migrants," the analysis reads. "However, federal immigration policy decisions in the last half of the decade, accompanied and perhaps exacerbated by an officially pronounced federal view of immigration overall, slowed California's migration-related growth."

View an interactive version of this map here.

Much of the federal funding distributed to the various states is also based on census data. Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, highway construction and affordable housing vouchers are among the federal programs split up on a per-person basis. Now California will be getting a bit less.

The news also makes a thorny political problem even thornier for the state's independent redistricting commission, which must now draw new congressional maps with one fewer district. That will water down the political representation of hundreds of thousands of voters somewhere in the state and could potentially deprive an incumbent of his or her seat.

It's still too early to say who is going to lose out in that process. But Monday's announcement raises the stakes of what was already a very high-stakes job.

"The highly debated question regarding where we will lose a congressional seat remains unanswered," the commission said. "The commission will use the census data in conjunction with input from communities on the ground to create a full assessment of the representational needs of the state."

Because the bloc of states that stand to gain House districts skew more purple and red than the states that are losing seats, today's shuffle also raises questions over control of the House. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco regained the speaker's gavel after the 2018 election; Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield wants to become speaker.

While census officials said that states will get redistricting data by Aug. 16, elections officials across California have also been sounding the alarm that the delay in census data will make it much harder for the redistricting commission to draw up the state's new electoral maps in time for the 2022 midterms.

Even if the commission is able to do the work on time, the crunched timeline could jeopardize "the ability of the public to participate in the process," said John Dobard with Advancement Project California, a racial justice advocacy group, speaking at the webinar.

Monday's news also removes an easy alternative if the commission runs out of time to finish its maps, said political consultant Matt Rexroad.

With California losing a seat, "there is no legal remedy to just run the old seats," he said. "You don't have that off-ramp anymore."

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Email Ben Christopher at [email protected]

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics. Read more state news from CalMatters here.

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California loses Congressional seat for first time

by / CalMatters

Uploaded: Wed, Apr 28, 2021, 11:41 am

Lea este artículo en español.

For the first time in its 171-year history, California's political voice is about to get a little quieter.

After months of delay, the U.S. Census Bureau on Monday released new population estimates for each state. The bad news for California: It loses a seat in Congress, down from 53 House districts to 52.

The worse news: Not only does that mean the state will have one fewer representative in the House, it also means one fewer vote in the Electoral College that decides the presidency and proportionately less of the $1.5 trillion in federal money distributed by population each year.

Maybe the hardest news to take of all: While California is seeing its national stature shrink ever-so-slightly, that power is being shunted to our faster-growing rivals, Texas (which adds two seats) and Florida (which gets one). In all, seven House seats will shift among 13 states, the smallest change since 1941.

The federal government is required to conduct the census every 10 years. That data is used to dice the country up into 435 roughly equally sized congressional districts.

"It's a fixed pie, and California did not grow as fast as the rest of the nation," said Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California, speaking Monday at a UC Riverside webinar on the new census data.

Between 2010 and 2020, the national population increased by 7.4% to 331.4 million, according to the bureau's new figures. That's the second smallest increase in the 24 decades the census has been done. California's population grew by even less, just 5.9%, from 37.3 million to 39.5 million residents.

Census officials said that while California recorded more births than deaths over the decade and the state added international residents, more people moved to other states than came here. There's another potential factor: Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to allow the Trump administration to place a question about immigration status on the 2020 census. Still, activists and Democratic elected leaders said the high-profile effort might discourage undocumented immigrants from participating and lead to an undercount in states with large non-native born populations like California.

The loss of a congressional seat is also likely to fuel a narrative peddled by conservatives that Californians are fleeing an expensive Democratic-governed state in search of cheaper, less regulated climes.

Sure enough, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who plans to challenge Gov. Gavin Newsom in the recall election that on Monday became all-but-certain to happen later this year, used the announcement by the Census Bureau to bash the governor. "Gavin Newsom's policies have been an assault on affordability and livability for families across this state. Californians are being forced to leave their home state in droves," Faulconer said in a campaign press release.

Though the number of new Californians has been slowing for decades, a Public Policy Institute of California analysis found that rising net migration from California to other states has become an increasingly significant "drag on the state's overall population growth."

An analysis of the new data conducted by the state Department of Finance and shared by department spokesperson H.D. Palmer disputed the notion that outward domestic migration was to blame for California's lost seat and instead pointed the finger at former President Trump's nativist immigration policies.

"Domestic flows out to other states were more than offset by international migrants," the analysis reads. "However, federal immigration policy decisions in the last half of the decade, accompanied and perhaps exacerbated by an officially pronounced federal view of immigration overall, slowed California's migration-related growth."

Much of the federal funding distributed to the various states is also based on census data. Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, highway construction and affordable housing vouchers are among the federal programs split up on a per-person basis. Now California will be getting a bit less.

The news also makes a thorny political problem even thornier for the state's independent redistricting commission, which must now draw new congressional maps with one fewer district. That will water down the political representation of hundreds of thousands of voters somewhere in the state and could potentially deprive an incumbent of his or her seat.

It's still too early to say who is going to lose out in that process. But Monday's announcement raises the stakes of what was already a very high-stakes job.

"The highly debated question regarding where we will lose a congressional seat remains unanswered," the commission said. "The commission will use the census data in conjunction with input from communities on the ground to create a full assessment of the representational needs of the state."

Because the bloc of states that stand to gain House districts skew more purple and red than the states that are losing seats, today's shuffle also raises questions over control of the House. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco regained the speaker's gavel after the 2018 election; Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield wants to become speaker.

While census officials said that states will get redistricting data by Aug. 16, elections officials across California have also been sounding the alarm that the delay in census data will make it much harder for the redistricting commission to draw up the state's new electoral maps in time for the 2022 midterms.

Even if the commission is able to do the work on time, the crunched timeline could jeopardize "the ability of the public to participate in the process," said John Dobard with Advancement Project California, a racial justice advocacy group, speaking at the webinar.

Monday's news also removes an easy alternative if the commission runs out of time to finish its maps, said political consultant Matt Rexroad.

With California losing a seat, "there is no legal remedy to just run the old seats," he said. "You don't have that off-ramp anymore."

Email Ben Christopher at [email protected]

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics.

Comments

Atherton Resident
Registered user
Atherton: other
on Apr 28, 2021 at 12:38 pm
Atherton Resident, Atherton: other
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 12:38 pm

This statement seems to be rather presumptive by Mr. Christopher
"The loss of a congressional seat is also likely to fuel a narrative peddled by conservatives that Californians are fleeing an expensive Democratic-governed state in search of cheaper, less regulated climes."

Could he provide an explanation as to why a seat would be lost other than a reduction of population?


menlo mom
Registered user
another community
on Apr 28, 2021 at 1:27 pm
menlo mom, another community
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 1:27 pm

I was wondering the same thing as Atherton Resident. I suppose by his phrasing that it is likely to "fuel a narrative peddled by conservatives" he doesn't actually say it is an untrue narrative, he just implies it. But I find it almost amusing that he makes this claim only a few paragraphs after he states: "Maybe the hardest news to take of all: While California is seeing its national stature shrink ever-so-slightly, that power is being shunted to our faster-growing rivals, Texas (which adds two seats) and Florida (which gets one)."

I thought his choice of words incredibly odd. What makes one state a rival to another? We don't compete with Texas and Florida for the same exports. They're not major sport franchise rivals. They don't border us. As far as I can see, there are three items that make those two states stand out as a possible "rival" to California: (1) They are politically conservative, vs California liberal, (2) Their response to Covid was based more in individual responsibility and less on top-down government edict, and (3) their population is growing, (with many, many new residents from California) vs California, who is shrinking. As someone who left California in the middle of the pandemic, mostly because the government's response and the "blow-the-whistle-on-your-neighbor" attitude of its citizens underscored why I was unhappy living there, I can't help but see the correlation between the above three points.

In fact, I can't help but wonder what the results would have been had the pandemic hit one month earlier, or the census done one year (or even nine months) later. Our household completed the census paperwork in April, before the due date, but decided to move three weeks later. And we were some of the first "pandemic refugees".


menlo mom
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 28, 2021 at 1:35 pm
menlo mom, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 1:35 pm

Typo above: I meant if the pandemic had hit one YEAR earlier, not one month.


MP Resident
Registered user
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 29, 2021 at 1:34 pm
MP Resident, Menlo Park: Downtown
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 1:34 pm

Atherton Res and Menlo Mom may get a chuckle from the byline

"CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics."


menlo mom
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Apr 30, 2021 at 6:16 am
menlo mom, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 6:16 am

MP Resident: I was going to comment on that, but decided my post went on long enough! I’ve noticed at least one other article in the Almanac recently from CalMaters, although there may have been more. It also seemed to be more of an opinion piece than straight facts. I don’t have a problem with the Almanac supplementing their content, particularly in today’s world where local news is struggling, but I wish they would state the source at the BEGINNING of the article, rather than the end. (OK, scrolling back up, I can see it’s part of the by-line but, unless you know to look for it, you’d miss it.) But I guess I should have picked up on this, as the entire tone of the piece was so unlike the Almanac.


MPCSD resident
Registered user
Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 30, 2021 at 5:36 pm
MPCSD resident, Atherton: West Atherton
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 5:36 pm

@Atherton Resident: If you read through the article you'll see that California's population hasn't actually decreased over the past decade, it's just that it hasn't grown as quickly as some other states, such as Texas and Florida. Also, it's unclear whether this census was as accurate as in the past in counting non-citizen residents due to Trump's rhetoric and initial attempts to include a citizenship question on the census(the census isn't just meant to count citizens).

@Menlo Mom: Texas, and to some degree Florida, are considered rivals to California in terms of attracting companies to base their headquarters. When this movement occurs the tax base decreases. This has been an issue for a while now.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 30, 2021 at 8:32 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 8:32 pm

Florida and Texas both have more Covid cases per million and more deaths per thousand than does California.

Web Link

And California's current case rate is 4 per 100,000 vs Texas's 11 per 100, 000 and Florida's 25 per 100,000.

Web Link


menlo mom
Registered user
another community
on May 3, 2021 at 11:16 am
menlo mom, another community
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 11:16 am

@Peter Carpenter
You are correct in relation to deaths. Per the link you provided, as of today, California ranks #29 in deaths per million at 1567, vs Florida at #28 at 1642 and Texas #23 at 1743. So that is a difference of 75 people, per ONE MILLION (FL) and 176 people per ONE MILLION (TX). California and Florida are neck and neck, which is shocking, especially considering that Florida has one of the oldest population with a median age of 42.4, while California has one of the youngest, at 37. (And I'm sure you are correct about the case rate. I personally no longer find that stat useful, but rely more on hospitalizations for a snapshot in time, and deaths for overall figures.) As a side note, since I moved out of state, I've dined out, attended the gym, and gone to Sunday worship (all with restrictions of course) and my state's ranks in the top ten lowest in deaths per million.

But I think we can all agree that while these figures are immediately available now, other important statistics won't be clear for quite a while, such as youth suicide. I heard yet another story from friends of a daughter who was recently hospitalized after having a reaction to new anti-depressants that resulted in self harm. Thank God tragedy was averted, but a second plea for prayers went out that a bed could be found in an adolescent facility because the hospital was ready to discharge her, but all beds were full, and she was still having suicidal thoughts. This young girl is 13. Anyone with teens are aware of many similar stories.

The crisis of teen mental health predated Covid, and is related to many factors, not the least of which is social media. But I find it unconscionable that, knowing this, in many, many parts of our country, we took away their social interaction, athletic pursuits (through PE, sports, or a local gym), and faith based activities, all experiences that strengthen mental health, and expected them to be ok. I don't see California ranking high in this stat


pvrez
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on May 5, 2021 at 9:05 am
pvrez, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 9:05 am

@menlo mom nailed it - mic drop.


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