2010 Census Results

This morning the US Census Bureau released its official population count for the nation, the 50 states, and the reapportionment of seats in the US House. For the first time ever, California will not gain a seat in the House – our growth rate of 10% wasn’t nearly enough to keep up with states like Texas (+4), Florida (+2) or Nevada, Arizona and Washington (+1 each). That means California will still have 55 electoral votes in the 2012, 2016, and 2020 presidential elections.

The overall US population is 308,745,538. California’s population is 37,253,956, still the most populous state by far – Texas is in second place at 25,145,561.

California needs to keep pace and hold off Texas in the coming years – single-payer health care, free child care, and greater urban density would all help us preserve our lead, which is important if we are to avoid Texas becoming dominant in the US House (although if Texas swung to the left, it would be more acceptable).

With a population of 308 million, that means a Congressional district now represents about 708,000 people. By contrast, after the 1790 Census a Congressional district represented about 34,000 people. Since 1913 the size of the House was capped at 435. It’s an absurd situation, and the House needs to be expanded so that each district represents around 100,000 people (though I’m willing to go even smaller than that). In that scenario, the House would have 3,080 members, of which 370 would come from California.

Sound far-fetched? A new lawsuit seeks to force the House to expand, claiming the current cap of 435 is a violation of the “one man, one vote” doctrine:

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide as soon as today if justices will hear a case on whether those disparities violate the principle of “one man, one vote.” Justices were scheduled to discuss the case behind closed doors Friday.

The lawsuit, Clemons v. U.S. Department of Commerce, seeks a court order to force Congress to add more members so that the sizes of congressional districts would be more equal.

Last July, in a decision that quoted liberally from the Founding Fathers, a special three-judge panel ruled against changing the current system. “We see no reason to believe that the Constitution as originally understood or long applied imposes the requirements of close equality among districts in different states,” it ruled.

Although the lawsuit is brought by two right-wing activists, it is something progressives should very strongly support. It would massively increase the number of progressives in Congress, both as an absolute number and as a proportion of the overall total. And it’s the right thing to do – huge Congressional districts distort power and, with the Electoral College capped at 538, it distorts the presidential vote as well.

Let’s hope this lawsuit succeeds. It would certainly make life much more interesting for the new redistricting commission!

10 thoughts on “2010 Census Results”

  1. we can really compare the reapportionments of 1910 and earlier with the reapportionments after 1910, because the House was expanded every census until 1910. I did some number-crunching on California and U.S. population and House numbers from 1850 to 1910 and found that if the House had been frozen from 1850 onwards, at 234 seats, California would not have gained any seats twice, in 1870 and 1900. If the House continued to be expanded after 1910, then California along with most other states would be expected to gain seats in 2010. True CA would not gain as fast as the states that are currently projected to gain seats, but it would still gain nonetheless.


    California population: 92,597

    U.S. population: 23,191,876

    U.S. House district size: 99,111 people per district

    CA delegation: 1


    California population: 379,994 (310.37% increase from 1850)

    U.S. population: 31,443,321 (35.58% increase from 1850)

    U.S. House district size: 134,373 people per district

    California delegation: 3 (+2)


    California population: 560,247 (47.44% increase from 1860)

    U.S. population: 39,818,449 (26.64% increase from 1860)

    U.S. House district size: 170,164 people per district

    California delegation: 3 (no change)


    California population: 864,694 (54.34% increase from 1870)

    U.S. population: 50,189,209 (26.05% increase from 1870)

    U.S. House district size: 214,484 people per district

    California delegation: 4 (+1)


    California population: 1,213,398 (40.33% increase from 1880)

    U.S. population: 62,947,714 (25.42% increase from 1880)

    U.S. House district size: 269,007 people per district

    California delegation: 5 (+1)


    California population: 1,485,053 (22.39% increase from 1890)

    U.S. population: 76,212,168 (21.07% increase from 1890)

    U.S. House district size: 325,693 people per district

    California delegation: 5 (no change)


    California population: 2,377,549 (60.10% increase from 1900)

    U.S. population: 92,228,496 (21.02% increase from 1910)

    U.S. House district size: 394,139 people per district

    California delegation: 6 (+1)

  2. Each state senator will represent an average of 931,348 people.  Eash assemblyman will represent 465,674 people.


  3. This would likely hurt progressives, at least in the near term.  Based on data here:

    Republicans hold 41 of the top 50 districts by 2009 population; Democrats hold 9.

    Ds hold 33 of the bottom 50 districts by 2009 population; Rs hold 17.

    Average 2009 pop per district is 678K for Ds, 725K for Rs.

    In all, more people live in R districts on average, and Rs hold most of the highest-population districts.  If you assume that on average, the proportion of D voters in R-held districts is similar to the proportion of R voters in D-held districts, this means splitting the districts and apportioning them by population would favor Republicans.

    This could be a false assumption, due to gerrymandering, but I don’t know how to test that.

    My point is, the idea sounds great in theory, and it looks great when you compare every D district to Wyoming.  But when you compare every D district against every R district, the idea seems much less likely to favor Democrats.

    I suspect this is why the lawsuit was brought by right-wing activists.

  4. You could always outlaw abortion and euthanasia. That would keep Cali ahead of Texas for a long long time. I can’t say for sure of course but I’d bet most aborted babies would have grown up to be Democrats!  

  5. The Electoral College is based upon representation in Congress.  For this reason, there will never be a change in representation in the House.  Such a change would be a disaster for “small” states.

Comments are closed.