Farm states brace for loss of clout as House redistricting nears

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Major farm states are likely to lose more influence in the U.S. House because of population shifts that are expected to result in lost seats across the Midwest as well as in Pennsylvania and New York.

The results of the 2020 Census are not expected to be released before March, but analysts expect the states losing seats to include Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota. California also could lose at least one House seat.

“As we continue to lose members of Congress from rural America, I worry about the long-term effect it will have on agriculture,” Rep. Darrin LaHood, R-Ill., told Agri-Pulse.

State legislatures, and in some cases independent commissions, are responsible for drawing new districts based on the Census results. In most cases, the lost districts are likely to come out of rural areas.

reapportionment study conducted by Election Data Services — a political consulting firm — using Census Bureau estimates found Texas will likely gain three congressional seats, Florida will gain two seats, and Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon would each add a single seat. Montana could gain a seat, but by only 4,714 people, according to the Election Data Services estimate.

Several farm states, California, Illinois, Ohio and Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania, along with Rhode Island and West Virginia are likely to lose a seat. Under certain scenarios, it’s possible Alabama could lose one seat and New York could lose as many as two.

The challenge to rural political influence is that most population growth continues to be in the cities and suburbs, and new districts must be drawn to reflect that. 

Lawmakers who are drawing new districts can “manipulate things a little bit on the margins” to help rural areas, but in the end it “all comes down to where people live,” said Christopher Mooney, a professor of state politics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “If nobody’s living there, you’re not going to have political power.”

Minnesota’s current congressional districts

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