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Iowa population grows enough to hold onto 4 U.S. House seats

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2020 Census

In this image from video provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, acting director of the U.S. Census Bureau Ron Jarmin speaks as a graphic showing the U.S. population as of April 1, 2020, is displayed during a virtual news conference Monday. 

DES MOINES — It appears Iowa will hold onto its four U.S. House seats for at least another decade.

The first results of the 2020 census released Monday confirm a dramatic shift in population, as Americans leave northern Rust Belt states in favor of sunnier climes where economic opportunity is more plentiful, according to the Census Bureau.

Rapid population growth in Sun Belt states will shift congressional representation to the South and West and away from the Northeast and Midwest.

Despite that trend, Iowa’s population grew nearly 4.8% in the past decade, from 3,046,355 to 3,192,406, the Census Bureau said.

Iowa represents almost 1% of the nation’s 331,449,281 population, which grew 22,703,743, or 7.4 percent, since 2010.

The numbers are good news for Iowa, which despite its population growth of nearly 37% since 1910, has lost U.S. House seats as other states have added more residents more rapidly to gain a larger share of the 435 House seats.

In 1910, Iowa had 11 U.S. House members. After the 1930 census, Iowa lost two congressional seats and one each after the 1940, 1960, 1970, 1990 and 2010 population counts.

Over that time, the number of Iowans represented by each member of the House increased from 202,252 in 1910 to 763,447 currently, according to the Census Bureau.

The data released Monday will be used for congressional apportionment — determining how many of the 435 representatives each state will have beginning with the 2022 election.

The Census Bureau also indicated it now expects to release preliminary data for redistricting — drawing the lines of congressional and state legislative districts — in August.

Although that’s well past the spring release of previous redistricting cycles, it’s good news for Iowa’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, which draws those state boundaries, and for the Legislature, which must approve a redistricting plan in September, as required by the Iowa Constitution.

House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said lawmakers will continue to work with the Legislative Services Agency “to determine what options are available and how to best proceed and ensure that we can maintain the integrity of our highly praised redistricting process in Iowa.”

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, called on the Census Bureau to release the data needed for state redistricting immediately “and allow states to follow their own process to create congressional and legislative districts.”

He also used the opportunity to call for “pro-growth policies,” such as low or no income taxes, which he said would foster new career opportunities “for Iowans to stay in this state, return or call Iowa home for the first time.”.

Based on the 2020 census, the ideal population for an Iowa congressional district will be 797,592.

The ideal population for each of 50 state Senate districts will be 63,807 and 31,904 for each of the 100 House districts.

Texas, which has added about 4 million residents over the past decade, was the winner in the congressional seat-stakes, gaining two seats to 38. That puts it second only to California, which lost one of its 53 House seats.

Five states — Florida, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon — each gained one seat.

Seven states — California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — each lost one seat. No state lost more than one.

The changing demographics is likely to have some political impact, though it’s not clear how that will pay out in the 2022 elections, University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle said Monday.

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While most of the states gaining seats trend Republican, the fastest-growing parts of those states are more urban than rural, he said. Urban areas tend to vote Democratic.

Some impacts could be less partisan and more state-specific, Hagle said.

“We could see would be more concern for dealing with hurricanes given that both Florida and Texas have been hit in the past,” he said.

With those states gaining three seats and North Carolina adding one, “there might be additional legislation proposed to provide protections of one sort or another.”

Losses in Illinois, Michigan and Ohio could reduce Midwestern agriculture’s influence on legislation, such as future farm bills, Hagle said.

Overall, however, the impact of the shift in congressional representation is likely to be “gradual and more likely to take effect piecemeal as events warrant,” he said.

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