Census data targets Rust Belt House rural districts – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
New census data shows declining populations in rural areas and some Rust Belt towns, which could make them targets when redistricting for the US House.
As suburban congressional districts swell with new residents, lawmakers in vast swaths of rural America and some Rust Belt towns need more people to represent.
In rural Illinois, Republican Rep. Mary Miller’s district is short 73,000 people. In northeast Ohio, Democratic Representative Tim Ryan needs 88,000 more people. And Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s Detroit-area district is short by more than 100,000 people — one of the biggest deficits in the country.
That makes them all potential targets for mappers – and possibly vulnerable to job loss – as their districts are redrawn in the coming months to rebalance the country’s changing population.
The numbers come from an Associated Press analysis of new 2020 census data revealing America’s boom in urban and suburban, at the expense of small towns. The draining of rural areas has been particularly difficult news for Republicans, who have increasingly relied on rural voters to win seats in Congress. Of the 61 US House districts that have lost population, 35 are held by Republicans.
The party only needs to win five seats to take control of the House in 2022. But it is guaranteed to lose a seat in West Virginia and risk taking a hit in Illinois and New York.
However, Republicans are well positioned to take those seats — and possibly more — in the growing states of Texas, Florida and North Carolina, where they control the mapping process. Fast-growing areas, such as Republican-held congressional districts in suburban Texas, are fertile ground for adding new districts or distributing surplus Democratic voters among neighboring districts.
This tactic is one that is sure to be challenged both in legislatures and in court. On Friday, Democrats wasted no time in filing a new lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s current maps, anticipating a redistricting stalemate in the state’s divided government and arguing that the courts should intervene.
Political parties will fight not only to win seats, but also to eliminate the seats held by their opponents. That means some of the toughest battles for mapmakers will be in districts that have fewer people than a decade ago, like those in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio — all states that will lose a seat in the United States House due to demographic backwardness.
Ohio will drop from 16 to 15 seats in the US House with a redistricting. Of the 10 districts with the largest population deficits, three were in Ohio, according to the AP analysis, based on the number of residents required per district.
This included Ryan’s district as well as Republican Representative Bill Johnson’s Eastern Ohio District and the Cleveland-area district of former Democratic Representative Marcia Fudge, who resigned to join President Joe Biden’s administration. The district of Fudge, where Democrat Shontel Brown recently won the primary, is seeking an additional 94,000 people.
Ryan’s district, while still voting Democrats, shifted to Republicans in recent presidential elections.
Republicans, who control redistricting in Ohio, could “sort of dismember” Ryan’s neighborhood and place its residents in other nearby neighborhoods, said Paul Beck, a retired political science professor from Ohio. State University. “I think this neighborhood is going to be on the cutting boards.”
Ryan has announced his intention to run for the United States Senate.
A lost Democratic district in Ohio would not necessarily result in a Republican gain, as the GOP would still have to defend 12 seats it already holds.
Republicans are guaranteed to lose a congressional seat in West Virginia. This is because they currently hold all three seats and one is to be eliminated in the redistricting.
Another blow may await Republicans in Illinois, who must cut their congressional delegation from 18 to 17. Democrats who control redistricting there are almost certain to try to eliminate a district in heavily Republican areas of the country. central and southern Illinois. According to the census, Illinois’ five Republican-held congressional districts lost population between 2010 and 2020, giving Democrats the rationale to get rid of them.
“I don’t think Republicans can do anything to stop this,” said Alvin Tillery Jr., associate professor of political science and director of Northwestern University’s Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy.
A similar scenario could play out in New York, where Democrats also control redistricting and will therefore have influence over which seat to eliminate.
The fight could be more complicated in Pennsylvania, where the state’s congressional delegation is currently split 9-9 between Democrats and Republicans. The GOP controls the Legislature, which will draft a new map eliminating one seat, but Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf holds a veto.
Republican Rep. Glenn Thompson’s rural Pennsylvania district ranks in the top 10 nationally in population deficit, needing to recruit more than 90,000 people to meet the redistricting goal. It is one of six Pennsylvania districts that lost population in the 2020 census, with all but one held by Republicans.
Citizens’ commissions will be responsible for deciding how to eliminate one district each in California and Michigan. After the 2010 census, Michigan’s districts were drawn by a Republican-led legislature and governor and provided the GOP with one of the nation’s most enduring advantages, according to an AP analysis.
Michigan lost population in the 2020 census in some rural areas as well as Detroit and Flint, which has been plagued by a tainted water crisis over the past decade. The districts of Democratic Representatives Dan Kildee, who represents Flint, and Rashida Tlaib of Detroit each have more than 100,000 people short of the redistricting goal — the largest gaps nationally outside of West Virginia.
If Republicans were still drawing the maps, one of those districts could be a likely elimination target. But the state constitution says the Citizens Redistricting Commission can neither favor nor oppose incumbents. This means that the new map could be very different.
“The commission is highly unlikely to take the current map and make small adjustments,” said Matt Grossmann, a political scientist who directs the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University. “I really think they’re going to be closer to starting from scratch.”
Associated Press writer Sara Burnett contributed to this report from Chicago.