Census could have Arizona headed for 10th seat

Immigrant fight had big impact on state

Posted 1/27/21

Arizona is on track to gain a 10th seat in the U.S. House based on estimates from the 2020 Census, and that could again alter the dynamics of who is representing the state in Washington.

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Census could have Arizona headed for 10th seat

Immigrant fight had big impact on state


Arizona is on track to gain a 10th seat in the U.S. House based on estimates from the 2020 Census, and that could again alter the dynamics of who is representing the state in Washington.

The current political breakdown of the Arizona House Representatives is five Democrats to four Republicans, but the population growth indicates another congressional district will be drawn up in this year’s redistricting process.

This would mean increased funding and representation for the state of Arizona. The federal government allocates $675 billion per year to the states based on population, according to the Arizona government. The funding will fulfill financial needs in areas, such as schools, hospitals, and infrastructure.

Arizona’s most updated population was estimated at 7.4 million in July, showing over a 16% increase since the last census in 2010, according to Manassas, Virginia-based Election Data Services.

The Census Bureau experienced delays in collecting the population count because of COVID-19, but its statutory deadline to provide redistricting data has not been changed from March 31.

“It remains to be seen, and we’re awaiting the final results whenever the Census Bureau figures them out. When that’s going to be, it’s going to be a real question mark still,” said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services.

While it’s not completely certain Arizona will gain a seat, the state is estimated at “about 189,000 people over the tipping point,” according to Mr. Brace.

Since the 1930s, the general census trend shows more people are moving out of the Northeast and upper Midwest and gravitating to the Southwest, said Mr. Brace.

All states will redraw congressional and legislative district lines this year in a process called apportionment, which occurs every 10 years.

The U.S. is divided into 435 congressional districts, each with an elected member to represent the House. Districts must be redrawn to represent around 710,000 individuals.

This means as some states gain an extra seat in the House, others will lose. Latest estimates show New York is expected to lose two representatives, while California along with many upper Midwest states will drop down one.

Arizona will likely see its additional congressional district carved out of the Maricopa and Pima County areas, said Dr. George Watson, political science professor at Arizona State University, who explained this is likely where the state has seen the most growth.

Arizona is one of only 10 states to have an independent redistricting commission to redraw state and federal district lines, according to Ballotpedia. As for the rest of the states, this power belongs to its elected state leaders.

Even with an independent commission, certain partisan efforts remain at work in terms of drawing the lines on the map, according to Dr. Watson.

“Partisanship is coming to play in an interesting area because President Trump has tried to change the way immigrants, in particular illegal immigrants, are counted and whether or not they’re counted at all,” Dr. Watson said.

Based on demographics and election results, Mr. Brace explained this act of cutting out minorities “certainly plays into the hands of the Republican side. It’s not good for the Democrats.”

The predominantly liberal state of California would lose representation without illegal immigrants, but on the other hand, Florida could lose from this as well, said Dr. Watson. Arizona could potentially not gain its 10th seat, he added.

Trump issued a memorandum to the Secretary of Commerce in July 2020 to exclude illegal immigrants from the census count. Several states and local governments brought the case forward.

A District Court held that the plaintiffs had standing in a federal court because of the memorandum’s potential effect on census data and federal funding. It declared the memorandum unlawful.

Trump v. New York went to the Supreme Court, however, where the case was remanded to the lower court. The Per Curiam decision on Dec. 18 was that the plaintiffs lacked standing because the Census response period had closed and because the case relied on the hypothetical exclusion of illegal immigrants in apportionment, rather than a concrete event.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan, dissented.

The Census Bureau released a statement on Jan. 21 announcing its suspension of all work on the immigration status of the country under the executive order of the newly inaugurated, President Joseph Biden.

Estimates show there could be as many as 12 million undocumented immigrants across the U.S., according to Dr. Watson. If citizenship was in question when filling out the census, it would have had a “devastating” effect on retrieving an accurate count, said Mr. Brace.

Although the effort to exclude counting immigrants have been halted, they likely could have still turned away many people in this demographic, said Mr. Brace.

“Redistricting is always a partisan effort. It is a question of who wins and who loses, but it’s also an issue of how do you balance everything out,” Mr. Brace said.

Edder Díaz-Martínez, communications director for Maricopa County Democratic Party, said their main priority in this process was “to try and make sure that all of Arizona is heard.”
The Maricopa County Republican Party did not respond to media request.

Mr. Díaz-Martínez reinforced the importance of having an independent commission for the sake of a fair democracy and to balance out the representation of all Arizona voices.

“It all comes down to making sure that the voices of rural Arizonans, Indigenous Arizonans are heard and that they are valued just as much as anybody who lives in the Phoenix-metro area. The voices are different, the issues that they care about are different, but they are just as valid,” said Mr. Díaz-Martínez.