WASHINGTON – Arizona, Texas, Florida and Georgia each gained two House seats and the Northeast and Midwest emerged as big losers as the government Thursday disclosed the first figures from this year’s census, which will be used to reassign the 435 House seats among the states.
All told, there were 281,421,906 Americans – an increase of 13 percent from 1990.
“Never have we been so diverse, never have we been so many and never have we been so carefully measured,” Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt declared in releasing the numbers that will reshape America’s political boundaries for the next decade.
Maine placed fifth lowest among the states in terms of population growth. It gained nearly 47,000 residents in 10 years for a total resident population of 1.27 million as of April 1, 2000.
In New England, Connecticut did even worse with growth of just 3.6 percent making it fourth on the list of slow-growing states.
Despite Maine’s sluggish 3.8 percent population growth, this census won’t cost the state one of its two seats in the House of Representatives.
Other states weren’t as lucky.
New York and Pennsylvania were the biggest losers in the decennial count, each losing two House seats despite small population gains. Five Midwest states also lost House seats, including unexpected losses in Michigan and Indiana.
The numbers provided a pleasant surprise for the Southeast, where Florida unexpectedly gained two seats with a 23.5 percent population gain. North Carolina picked up one unexpected seat, while Georgia claimed two new House seats with a 26.4 percent population jump.
“This is tremendous,” exclaimed Linda Meggers, director of the Georgia Legislature’s redistricting office, which will now have 13 congressional districts to reshape.
“Over the last two decades we have had some of the largest congressional districts in the country because we have always been on the cusp of that extra congressional seat,” she said. “Now, we’re where we ought to be and it is a tremendous gain for Georgia.”
North Carolina’s surprise gain came because the apportionment figures include overseas military and diplomatic residents. “If you had not included the overseas diplomatic and military corps in the 2000 count, then North Carolina would not have increased a seat and Utah would have [gained a seat],” Prewitt explained.
Nevada recorded the largest population gain, up 66.3 percent over 1990, but picked up only one seat and now will have three.
California remained the nation’s largest state with a population of 33.8 million, up 13.8 percent from a decade ago, and picked up another House seat in the process.
Texas, however, displaced New York as the second-most-populous state and picked up two representatives.
New York Gov. George Pataki said he was disappointed by the losses but not surprised because “we’ve been losing population [relative to the rest of the country], since the ’40s.”
“We’ve understood that turning around the state was something that was going to take quite some time,” Pataki said, touting recent job-growth numbers as a reason for optimism. “We have to bring young people back by giving them confidence that the economy is truly alive.”
Arizona also picked up two House seats with a 40 percent gain in population. Texas had a 22.8 percent population gain and now will have 32 House seats. Colorado was the only other state to pick up a House seat.
The Midwest suffered some of the heaviest losses, particularly Indiana, which will have only nine House seats – a loss of one – despite a 9.7 percent population growth. Michigan lost one of its 16 representatives after a population gain of 6.9 percent.
Illinois, which recorded a population gain of 8.6 percent, Ohio and Wisconsin also lost seats in the region. Other states suffering a loss of one House seat included Connecticut, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
The numbers furnished new evidence of a trend that has been under way since the last count – growth in the South and West spurred in large part by an increase in Hispanics, and a movement of Americans to such economic hotbeds as Atlanta and Las Vegas.
The numbers will now be used by state legislatures to reshape political boundaries for House districts. They’ll also change the number of electors each state has in the Electoral College that chooses presidents.
Every state increased its population, with North Dakota recording the smallest growth at 0.5 percent. The District of Columbia experienced the only population decline, falling 5.7 percent.
The Census Bureau also released a second population number that accounted for U.S. residents living overseas, but did not include the population of the District of Columbia, which has no voting representative in the House. That number was used to reapportion the House seats.
The numbers landed on President Clinton’s desk a few hours before Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta and Prewitt made the public announcement.
“Today, I am pleased to receive from the Department of Commerce the first data released from Census 2000, our country’s 22nd decennial census,” Clinton said in a statement. “Most importantly, I want to thank the American people for their participation in Census 2000.”
The Constitution says seats in the House must be redistributed fairly among the states every 10 years following the census. This year, each House member represents about 625,000 people, said John Haaga, a researcher with the Population Reference Bureau.
The reapportionment figures are just the first numbers from Census 2000 that will have wide political implications. In March, the Census Bureau is scheduled to begin releasing more data detailing county and local-level populations that will be used to redraw congressional and state legislative districts.
“People have looked at those projections and have already begun to think, ‘Where can we add a seat? Where we can take a seat away?’ … Both parties are playing that game,” said Tim Storey, redistricting analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “That’s where politics and population factors come into play.”
The GOP enters redistricting in a much better position this year than a decade ago because of increased power and influence in state legislatures, said Tom Hoffler, redistricting director for the Republican National Committee.
-Michael O’D. Moore contributed to this report.