STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Tomorrow, the Director of the Census Bureau Robert Groves will announce the official tally of the U.S. population, and the updated numbers will have a political impact. The numbers set in motion a process that affects the makeup of Congress and could also play a role in the next presidential election.
NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR: The census is many things. It provides answers to the questions: How many of us are there? Where do we live, and who are our neighbors? But first and foremost, the census is about politics. The Founders put it right at the top of the Constitution, Article 1, Section two, which calls for representatives to be apportioned among the states, according to their respective numbers.
An animated video on the Census Bureau's Web site helps explain.
(Soundbite of Census Bureau video)
Unidentified Man: First, the Constitution calls for each of the 50 states to have at least one seat. So, subtract 50 from the current House total of 435, and you have 385 seats left. Next, the apportionment machine ranks the states by population, according to the census.
NAYLOR: What the video calls the apportionment machine is actually a mathematical formula known as the method of equal proportions. Now, I'm a reporter, not a math whiz, but the Census Bureau's David Sheppard says it's not really that complicated.
Mr. DAVID SHEPPARD (Census Bureau): I used to teach middle school, and I think if I had spent a class period teaching my middle-school students how to apply this, if they knew how to use a spreadsheet, I think they could calculate apportionment.
NAYLOR: The formula for the calculating may not be all that complex, but the political outcome is enormous.
Mr. KIMBALL BRACE (President, Election Data Services): We're looking at upwards of 17 to 18 states, probably at a minimum, we'll see a change in the number of congressional districts and representatives that they get.
NAYLOR: Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, has crunched some of the numbers already released by the Census Bureau.
Mr. BRACE: Some of them will be losing seats, and if you're in other states, you'll be gaining seats. For example, the state of Texas will probably be gaining at least three, and maybe four seats.
NAYLOR: Other likely winners in the reapportionment sweepstakes include Florida, which could get two additional seats in the House, along with a handful of other Southern and Western states who are likely to gain one additional seat.
Now, the gains of those states come at the expense of others. New York and Ohio, for instance, based on Brace's early calculations, could each lose two seats in the House. Many other Northern and Midwestern states stand to lose a single seat. And there are some anomalies. It looks like California will not gain an additional seat this time, the first time that's happened since statehood. And Louisiana stands to lose a seat to Texas as a result of the exodus following Hurricane Katrina.
You've probably noticed if you follow politics at all that the states gaining seats tend to vote Republican, while those losing seats tend to be Democratic or swing states. Political Science Professor Ross Baker of Rutgers University says tomorrow will be a good news day for the GOP.
Professor ROSS BAKER (Political Science, Rutgers University): Certainly, I think we're going to see the likelihood of more Republican representatives being elected in the states that have been awarded new seats.
NAYLOR: Because Republicans will control the redistricting process in so many states, in those losing seats, Democratic incumbents will likely be tossed into the same district, leading to a game of political musical chairs. The effects of reapportionment will also be felt in the 2012 campaign for the White House. That's because the number of electors each state has in the Electoral College is based on the number of representatives it has. So a shift in power from blue states to red due to reapportionment could make it easier for the Republican nominee and make President Obama's path to re-election a bit more complicated, says Baker.
Mr. BAKER: It wouldn't be a wild guess to say that David Plouffe, the man the president has chosen to be the kind of overall field marshal of the 2012 re-election campaign, has got his pocket calculator out and is figuring out exactly what they're going to need and where they're going to need it.
NAYLOR: Now this being America, tomorrow's numbers may well be challenged in court by states that stand to lose seats and feel they were robbed. But the Census Bureau is confident. It's prevailed in past legal challenges, and expects it will again.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
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