Census to shed light on U.S. House seats

By Emily LeCoz / NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mississippi will learn today how many residents it gained or lost in the past decade and whether it will retain its four congressional seats.
Official state-by-state population counts from the U.S. Census Bureau’s decennial survey will be released today along with the nation’s congressional apportionment totals.
Apportionment is how the U.S. House of Representatives splits its 435 seats among the 50 states. It’s based not only on each state’s individual population but on the nation’s population density overall. Each district nationwide must be roughly equal in population.
Mississippi had eight seats at the turn of the 20th century but lost four of them through the years – the latest loss occurring in 2000. Even though its population increased by almost two-thirds during that time, the pace of growth was behind the nation’s.
Experts aren’t predicting any change with the release of new numbers; the Magnolia State likely will keep its four congressional spots. But to keep the numbers in each district in balance, the state’s congressional lines could shift based on population movement.
“Ever since I’ve been working with census data – 1980 was my first census – the state has been about 1 percent of the U.S. total,” said Clifford Holley, interim director of the University of Mississippi’s Center for Population Studies. “I don’t think we are going to reach that this time unless there was a growth spurt at the end of the decade.”
Northeast Mississippi is in the 1st Congressional District. Its current U.S. representative is Democrat Travis Childers, who will step down next month for incoming Republican Alan Nunnelee.
Last year’s unofficial census estimates show Mississippi gained more than 107,000 residents for a total of some 2.9 million people – up 3.8 percent from one decade ago. Growth occurred largely around Southaven in the 1st District and the Jackson suburbs in the 2nd District. Losses came mainly from the Delta, in the 2nd District.
“As far as our congressional districts, 1 and 3 will probably have to be trimmed down and people added to 2 and 4,” Holley said, “but we will have to wait until February to find out how much.”
It’s the Mississippi Legislature’s job to redraw the congressional districts as needed. State Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, who will sit on the joint legislative apportionment committee, said the 2nd District likely will expand east but expects little change otherwise.
Mississippi’s overall population gain lags behind that of nearby states, some of which could pull congressional clout away from their neighbors.
Alabama’s population climbed by an estimated 6 percent, Arkansas’ by 8, Tennessee’s by nearly 11, Florida’s by 16 and Georgia’s by more than 20.
Both Georgia and Florida are expected to gain at least one congressional seat each, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Miami Herald.
And Texas, whose population grew by an estimated 19 percent, could earn three or four new seats, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram said.
Louisiana is Mississippi’s only Southern neighbor to have seen slower growth, with a less than 1 percent population increase.
All of those numbers, though, are unofficial counts and could differ with today’s announcement.
The data will not show population totals for cities or counties. Those figures likely will be released either in February or March. Local redistricting data is due by April 1.
At that time, cities, counties and the state Legislature will begin redrawing political boundaries based on how their populations shifted. Early work on this process already has started but won’t be completed until later in 2011.
The U.S. Census Bureau collected data from millions of households by mail or in person during a massive, nationwide effort during the spring and summer. The population count occurs once every decade as prescribed in the U.S. Constitution.

Mississippi has increased its population by nearly two-thirds but halved its number of congressional seats over the past century.
Decade Population Change (%) U.S. Reps
1900-10 1,797,114 +15.8 8
1910-20 1,790,818 -0.4 8
1920-30 2,009,821 +12.2 7
1930-40 2,183,796 +8.7 7
1940-50 2,178,914 -0.2 6
1950-60 2,178,141 0 5
1960-70 2,216,812 +1.8 5
1970-80 2,520,838 +13.7 5
1980-90 2,573,218 +2.1 5
1990-00 2,844,858 +10.5 4
*2009 2,951,996 +3.7 4
2000-10 TO BE RELEASED TODAY
* Estimate
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.