Friday, December 16, 2011
Before redistricting comes reapportionment
At a special meeting this morning, the Washington State Redistricting Commission unveiled the next iterations of their proposed redrawing of Legislative District boundaries. As displayed here (PDF), the Commissioners have split into two bipartisan pairs, each responsible for drawing a particular portion of the state. Commissioners Tom Huff (R) and Dean Foster (D) have been working on the Olympic Peninsula, the Pacific coast, and the southern section of the wet side of the state. Their colleagues Tim Ceis (D) and Slade Gorton (R) have been tasked with working on the Eastside, the islands, and the northern west-of-the-Cascades area. They are not currently dealing with either the Seattle environs or the large area east of the mountains.
I don’t know whether they’ve been skipping over both the most and least urban parts of the state because they’ve already agreed on the LD lines in those areas, or because they’re at an impasse there, or (most likely IMHO) because drawing the lines in and around Seattle and on the dry side depends on the outcome of their deliberations in the segments they’re working on now. Whatever the reason, the Commissioners had better get their asses in gear—they’re supposed to present an agreed-upon plan to the Legislature by January 1, 2012, just half a month from now.
While this new presentation is the third iteration of LD borders, we still have seen no Congressional District maps since each of the four Commissioners presented their own proposals on September 13, fully three months ago! Their silence on the topic frustrates many observers no end.
While we wait (and wait, and wait, ...) for the Commissioners to break their long silence on Congressional redistricting, I’d like to take a step back in the process, to discuss the reapportionment that presented the Commission with the opportunity to construct a brand-new Congressional District instead of merely rejiggering the existing ones in their redistricting task, as they’re doing with the state’s 49 (no more, no less) Legislative Districts.
As you’re no doubt aware, the number of Congressional Districts in each state is determined based on the results of the decennial Census, mandated by the Founders in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and revised under the 14th Amendment (you know, the one that got rid of that pesky three-fifths of a man thing). How the reapportionment is actually carried out is based on laws written by Congress, and those laws have changed numerous times over the decades. Nice presentations of background info on apportionment methodology, 1790 to the present and how different apportionment methods can produce differing allocations can be found on the Census website. The latter link shows concrete examples of calculations and results under four apportionment models.
Since 1940, the method of equal proportions has been used for reapportionment. After each state receives the required minimum of one seat, the other 385 seats are assigned to states in descending order of priority value (PV). The PV for potential seats 2, 3, 4, ... is calculated as shown in this paragraph, where n is the state’s potential seat number. In other words, the PV for a state’s second seat is its apportionment population divided by the square root of two. For its third seat, divide by the square root of (3*2=)six, then continue with the square roots of (4*3=)12, (5*4=)20, 30, 42, and so forth. By the time we get to the 60th seat (hey, California might someday have that many CDs), the divisor is the square root of 3540 (that’s 60*59). After all these values are calculated, rank-order them in descending order and assign the seats until 385 of them have been filled. For the record, the denominator in the equation is the geometric mean of n and (n-1).
I should mention a small wrinkle in the procedure. As you probably know, the Census counts persons, not citizens; undocumented individuals, if they’re willing to participate, count as residents of their state. For apportionment, however, the state’s resident population is augmented by the number of overseas Federal employees (including military personnel) who list that state as “home” on their employment records. Because these home state patterns don’t necessarily match the state’s rank in resident population, this small addition can affect the allocation of CDs to the states. In 2000, Utah might have gotten an additional seat if the Census counted Mormon missionaries for apportionment; that seat went instead to North Carolina, and Utah took its case (Utah v. Evans) all the way to the Supreme Court, where UT lost. As an example, adding the 28,829 Washingtonian Feds overseas to the state’s resident population of 6,724,540, the apportionment population comes to 6,753,369. Washington has the 12th highest count of overseas residents, one place better than its overall population rank. Texas, #2 overall, has the highest number of overseas persons, while California ranks third (behind Florida). Alaska, way down at #47 in population, ranks 26th in overseas employees.
After the calculations described above, it’s no surprise that the 51st seat goes to the largest state, California. Texas gets #52, followed by another CA seat, then NY, FL, CA again, TX again, and so on. Washington’s first added seat (its second overall) is #78 and its next is #122. The state’s ninth seat, equalling its 2000 number of Representatives, comes in at #391.
It gets really interesting as we come to the final few seats. In the spreadsheet snippet, I present the state assignments for the last ten seats (#426-#435), along with the next ten near-misses. The new WA-10 seat comes in at #432, comfortably above the cut-off. Minnesota’s eighth seat wins the final position in the House (too bad, as it’s likely that Michelle Bachmann’s district would have been axed had MN’s Congressional delegation decreased by one). Minnesota just barely avoided subtracting a seat from its 2000 allocation. At #434, California narrowly averted losing a seat in the House; if the Golden State had done so, it would have been its first-ever lost seat. In fact, except for 1920, when Congress somehow decided not to do any reapportionment at all, this is the first time California has failed to add a district. For the record, Washington is one of only 18 states that has never lost a seat since 1910 (and five of those have never changed their seat count in that century-plus). It may be poetic justice that North Carolina is the first runner-up this time around, after winning the final spot in 2000. The Tarheel State missed adding another seat by that thin margin.
As it turns out, in 2010 using resident population instead of apportionment population wouldn’t have altered the composition of the next Congress. There were a few flipflops in the PV list ... for instance, TX-10 would have been seat #126 and OK-2 #125, rather than the reverse. The rank-order (but not the identities) of the last five seats would be different, with the actual #431-#435 showing up in the order #432, #433 (Washington), #435, #431, #434. So the final spot would have gone to TX-36 instead of MN-8.
Of course, none of the above is of much interest to the Redistricting Commission. They probably don’t particularly care how it came to pass that they’re tasked to draw ten CDs instead of nine. It falls to reapportionment geeks like me to look at this sort of information. There’s a pile of additional information in the tables and charts on the Census 2010 website that I find fascinating—trends in the distribution of House seats over time, states that actually lost population between Censuses (hint: several states in the plains in the 1930s ... can you say “Dust Bowl”?), states that have never lost seats, states on long seat-losing streaks (Pennsylvania has lost at least one seat in every Census since 1930), and much more.
So that’s how Washington earned its tenth Congressional seat in 2010. By the way, we weren’t even close to reaching ten seats in the 2000 Census. Ten years ago, its ninth seat came in as #407 on the priority list, and the next potential WA seat (#455) missed the cut by 20 positions.
Although they don’t affect my fate here in Seattle (stay in the 43rd or get shifted into the 36th?), I’m eager to review the new LD maps. If the Redistricting Commission meets its deadline, we’ll be seeing a lot more of their products in the next couple of weeks. Including a redrawn 10-seat Congressional District map.
[Adapted and revised from an earlier post at HorsesAss.org]