California's House delegation doesn't grow, but still biggest

WASHINGTON — California's congressional delegation will remain the same size while Texas and Florida will bulk up, under final 2010 census results released Tuesday morning.

With a population of some 37.3 million, California will retain its current 53 House seats for the coming decade. Every state has two senators.

Reapportionment leaves California with the largest delegation in the 435-member House of Representatives. As the nation's population grew nearly 10 percent to 308,745,538, though, the overall balance shifted across the country.

"This is really an important day for the American people," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said at the National Press Club. "Much is riding on the results."

All told, 18 states will either gain or lose House seats, while 32 states will stay the same.

The new reapportionment will mark the first time since 1920 that California has not gained at least one House seat following the census. Rural lawmakers fearful of losing their clout blocked any reapportionment through the 1920s, according to the Census Bureau's official history.

More broadly, the latest census marks a continued siphoning of residents from Rust Belt states into the Sun Belt.

New York and Ohio were the big losers, as each state will sacrifice two House seats. The Texas congressional delegation, by contrast, will increase to 36 from the current 32. That almost certainly will boost House Republicans after the 2012 election, as the GOP already controls the state legislature in the heavily Republican state.

Florida will now have 27 seats, up from the current 25. As in Texas, Republicans control the Florida legislature that will draw the new House district lines.

"We see a continuation of a decades-long growth in the Southern regions," Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said.

Still, Democrats insist they aren't concerned about a reapportionment that could put additional House seats into the Republican roster.

"It's a little bit like worrying about the weather," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "I don't think that shifting some seats from one area of the country to another necessarily marks a concern that you can't make a politically potent argument in those new places."

The 37,341,989 California residents counted for apportionment purposes as of April 1, 2010, include citizens, non-citizens and illegal immigrants, as well as military personnel temporarily stationed overseas. Of these, 37,253,956 currently reside within the state and 88,033 are overseas.

The census figures fall far below projections by the California Department of Finance, which had earlier estimated the state's population at nearly 39 million. Department spokesman H.D. Palmer said Thursday that "we're going to have to get some data from the feds" in order to understand the reasons for the disparity.

"We have such a diverse population, and it's diverse in ways that make it more difficult to count," California Department of Finance senior demographer Linda Gage added.

In 2000, California's population was 33.8 million and earned the state one additional House seat. In subsequent redistricting, the southern San Joaquin Valley gained the new 21st Congressional District that includes all or part of Fresno, Kings and Kern counties.

The census figures released Tuesday do not include the in-state population details used in drawing California's new congressional districts. Those figures are expected by February, and the redistricting work will be done next year by a new 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Each new House district will include an average of 710,767 residents.

Previous studies by the nonpartisan Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College have suggested that California's population shifts could move all or part of one additional House district into the San Joaquin Valley.

"None of us have a clue, frankly, what the districts are going to look like," said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.

Beyond redistricting, the new population numbers will be used to help divvy up federal dollars. California currently receives more than $41 billion in federal funds that are driven by the population count, state officials estimate.

All told, the 2010 census cost a record $13 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office. Even so, the head-counters missed some, including Los Banos residents Neil and Janet Franklin, who said Tuesday that they never received either mail or personal communication from the census enumerators.

"I kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and nobody ever came," said Janet Franklin, 78. "I don't know how many others they may have missed."