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Census counts mean Michigan, Great Lakes states to lose power in Congress

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The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is amid a series of public hearings about its proposed legislative districts. At the first hearing in Detroit this week, several residents called the maps racist. (Shutterstock)

July 19: Race looms large as redistricting process begins in Michigan

LANSING— The U.S. Census Bureau confirmed on Monday what many expected: Michigan will lose a congressional representative in 2022, dropping from 14 to 13, because of slow population growth.

Michigan’s population grew 2 percent since 2010 to 10,084,442, the fifth-lowest growth in the nation, according to the Census. 

It was a similar story in neighboring states, as four of the other six states losing congressional seats — New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois — are in the Great Lakes basin. West Virginia and California also are losing one seat.


The losses set up a potential fight over the makeup of congressional districts,  and point to diminished power among Midwest states over a host of federal policies. 

“It’s really significant as we think about the promotion of manufacturing policies, from the manufacturers that are key in all of our states in this area,” said Eric Lupher, president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. 

The Great Lakes states — which also include Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin — now have 118 of 435 seats in the U.S. House, but the number will decline to 113 in 2022.

Ron Jarmin, the acting director of the U.S. Census Bureau, said a net of 84 seats in Congress have shifted from the Midwest, North and Northeast to the South and the West since 1940.

The states that are gaining seats are: Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas.

The Census pegged the U.S. population at 331 million, a 7 percent increase from 2010, but the second-lowest growth rate in history. Michigan fell from the eighth-largest state in the nation to the 10th. 

“Somehow, we as a state have to figure out why is it that young people don't want to stay in these rural areas and why is it that businesses aren’t located there,” Lupher said, referring to Michigan.

A decade ago, Michigan was the only state whose population declined. 

So, the new numbers could be interpreted as good news, but they are not enough to retain power. Along with the loss of a congressional seat, Michigan’s total of electoral votes will decline from 16 to 15 of the 538 total used to determine the winner of the presidency.

This has been a trend for Michigan — the state has lost a congressional seat in every decennial Census since the 1980s, when the state had 19 seats.

After each of those counts, the party in power in Lansing used population estimates to draw political maps. This year, however, the task will be handled by an independent redistricting commission approved by voters in 2018.

The loss of a seat, combined with the uncertainty of the new panel, will likely prompt a tug-of-war to determine who remains in power. Michigan’s congressional delegation is now evenly split 7-7 between Democrats and Republicans.

Democrats may be more vulnerable and may lose a seat or be consolidated into a competitive district, predicted Adrian Hemond, a Democratic strategist and CEO of Grassroots Midwest.

That’s because Democrats tend to live in more densely populated areas such as southeast Michigan, so it’s easier to make changes in those districts while adhering to criteria requiring districts to have roughly even population, he told Bridge Michigan.

According to the 2020 Census data, each member of the U.S. House of Representatives will now have to represent an average of 761,169 people.

“It really all comes down to where the population shifts,” Hemond said. “The City of Detroit's been losing population for a while, but we're also starting to see an accelerating trend of more rural communities also losing population.”

County-specific data would not be available until at least August, but Hemond said he expects incumbents to reach out to the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to try to keep their districts.

“The congressional incumbents are going to try to have some influence on the process …  But ultimately it's not their decision, and it's not the decision of elected officials,” Hemond said.

Edward Woods, communications director of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, said the 13-member panel wants to hear from the public before making a decision.

“We have a job to draw fair, transparent maps and the commission is steadfast on that as part of our mission,” Woods said. “And this doesn't change anything. And we will not waver in making sure that we meet those goals.”

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