December 28, 2000
10:02 AM   Subscribe

U.S. population up 13% from 1990 to 281 million. Power shifts South in the House. Yikes!
posted by quirked (15 comments total)
Power's heading south and west, which could be good for Mr. Nader and the Greens, if the party felt like going after a newly created House district or an older one whose demographics have shifted some. Won't hurt my feelings if they don't, 'cause I don't knock 'em for aiming high, but I think I'd prefer to see 'em build locally, on the state level. Maybe figure out how to cash in (figuratively, figuratively) on the coming '02 elections.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 10:51 AM on December 28, 2000

Newly created districts are often tailor-made by the ruling party. The Greens' best chances are in what are now generally safe Democrat seats, but of course, in Congress they'd have little political power and everyone knows it.

The conventional wisdom for the last two reapportionments has been that this is helping the Republicans by granting more seats in areas where they're traditionally strong (South and West) while stealing them from places where the Democrats are strong (upper Midwest, Northeast). It hasn't worked out quite that way, though: a lot of the population change in those regions involves people who don't fit the older demographic profile. California was reliably Republican, now it's reliably Democratic. Florida has shifted from the Democratic Solid South, to the Republican Solid South, to a toss-up -- largely due to the migration there of moderately liberal suburbanites from other regions. Even suburban rings are less certain to trend Republican. In the end, this redistricting does hold certain advantages for Republicans, since they control more state legislatures than they have in a long time; but those don't always turn out the way they were intended.

I would say the biggest surprise here is that California only gains one seat.
posted by dhartung at 11:43 AM on December 28, 2000

The Supreme Court's ruling against the use of statistical sampling and other types of data adjustment appears to have put the kibosh on that for now. A shame, I think. (here)
The Census Bureau estimated after the 1990 census that it had missed about four million people, mostly people of color and the poor, and double-counted four million others.

Undersecretary for Economic Affairs, Robert Shapiro said there was evidence from labor market surveys to suggest another undercount this time and he hoped the Bush administration would allow the bureau to submit adjusted figures to include any undercounts.

"Doing all we can to ensure that no one is missed, ... it's one of the real civil rights issues of our time," Shapiro said.

Any adjusted figures cannot be applied to the apportionment of seats after a Supreme Court ruling that only the raw data, such as that released Thursday, could be used for this purpose.

However, the court said it was up to individual states to decide which numbers they would use when redrawing congressional and state legislative lines next year.

Prewitt said adjusted numbers from 1990's census had been used for all major surveys conducted in the past eight years and he hoped the new administration would also adopt this approach if statistical sampling leads to an adjustment of figures.

"The census is the platform against which all other surveys are calibrated and it's extremely important to have the most accurate census possible," he said.

posted by allaboutgeorge at 12:01 PM on December 28, 2000

If the presidential election were held with the new apportionments in place, the final outcome wouldn't change. My arithmetic (suspect, as always) gives Bush 279 electoral college votes and Gore 261. I find this surprising, what with Gore winning the popular vote and all.
posted by gleuschk at 12:06 PM on December 28, 2000

The Greens' best chances are in what are now generally safe Democrat seats, but of course, in Congress they'd have little political power and everyone knows it.

If "everyone" knows it, then what the hell have I been reading at MeFi for the last 6 months? And how is it that the Greens would have no political power in Congress, but would magically rule the world with Nadir as President?

posted by ethmar at 1:24 PM on December 28, 2000

Ethmar, you don't understand. It's in the rules of Mefi that every political discussion, no matter the subject, must include at least one reference to Ralph Nader no matter how obliquely or how little relevance it has to the discussion. (I'm sure I saw it in there somewhere...)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:28 PM on December 28, 2000

The Greens (or any other third party) has absolutely no chance of getting any seats in our two party system. It's deliberately set up that way. It would be nice if we had a multi-party system like most democracies (i.e. the House or Parliment is split up by percentage of votes recieved) but it ain't going to happen. That would be too fair and would make too much sense.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 6:02 PM on December 28, 2000

I can't believe that it's up to individual state governments to determine the redrawing of congressional districts. (The name "Gerry Mander" comes to mind.) Here, at least, we have a putatively non-partisan organisation that uses both census data and more recent stats to rejig constituency boundaries: another role for that "big government" thing.
posted by holgate at 6:33 PM on December 28, 2000

Sorry, Holgate, it's in the constitution. (Pesky thing...)

posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:55 PM on December 28, 2000

I don't think that we can lay the vitality, or lack thereof, of third parties, at the feet of the first-past-the-post, single-member district scheme obtaining in the US.

Many states with pure or close-to-pure proportional representation schemes have two very dominant parties, and a string of smaller parties which either play no role, or play a highly questionable role, holding disproportionate power, exercised behind closed by unaccountable leaders to dubious if not entirely corrupt ends.

By contrast, states with little or no proportional representation or multi-member districts have very vital multi-party systems. In the UK, in addition to Labour and Tory, there are five regional / nationalist parties in Parliament with distinct and well-articulated agendas (six, if you count Sinn Fein, which is elected but which is not seated at Westminster because their MPs-elect won't pledge allegiance to the Queen), and a nationwide, highly-distinctive third party in the Liberal Democrats

Canada may actually have the most truly multi-partisan Parliament anywhere in the West -- five distinctive parties which manage to run the spectrum from separatist, hard-left, centrist, center-right, and right wing. And they have a completely first-past-the-post, single-member system.

(By the way, all the recent controversy regarding the possibility that the Florida Legislature could have directly designated the presidential Electors should make it quite apparent that the authority, vested in the States by the Constitution, to determine the manner of election of Congress members, could most likely be exercised to form multi-member districts within a State, or even to go ahead and adopt straightforward single-list proportional representation.)
posted by MattD at 7:42 PM on December 28, 2000

The Greens (or any other third party) has absolutely no chance of getting any seats in our two party system.

Tell that to Bernie Sanders. He's been representing his Vermont congressional district as an independent for more than a decade.
posted by rcade at 7:59 PM on December 28, 2000

Can I just go on record as a resident of Pennsylvania, about to lose two seats, to offer to give up my congressman?
posted by Dreama at 8:04 PM on December 28, 2000

> U.S. population up 13% from 1990 to 281 million.


Already one quarter the size of the population of China and rising at a rate of 1.3% annually.

That's like 1 billion self-congratulatory weblogs by the year 2100! Scary!
posted by lagado at 11:12 PM on December 28, 2000

Thanks rcade.
posted by ethmar at 5:31 AM on December 29, 2000

rising at a rate of 1.3% annually
Surely some of this growth is through immigration, perhaps a great deal of it.
posted by thirteen at 1:11 PM on December 29, 2000

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