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Saturday
Dec262009

South Carolina Census Could Mean Extra Congressional Seat

Southern Political Report Says Exact Count Key

By Tom Baxter
Southern Political Report

December 24, 2009

The last US Census Bureau estimate of population changes before the actual count is taken next year contains some good news and bad news for the South – and a certain amount of suspense.

With the latest numbers, South Carolina joins Florida and Georgia as Southern states which are expected to gain a new congressional seat in the next round of reapportionment. That’s good news for the Palmetto State, not so good for Florida, which earlier in the decade – before the real estate bust, that is – had been expecting to gain two or three seats in the next decade. Another state with reason to be disappointed in the new data is North Carolina, which in previous population estimates appeared to be on track to gain a seat.

The big winner continues to be Texas, which is on track to gain three or four seats.

The data released this week by the Census Bureau estimate the U.S. population for July 1, 2009, nine months before Census Day next April 1. But according to Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a political consulting firm which specializes in redistricting analysis, there are trends in the new data that “point toward more twists in population growth” in the remaining months, which could lead to a “variety of potential scenarios by the time apportionment happens in 2010.” The competition for congressional seats is “extremely close,” Brace says, with 16 states competing for the last six seats in the 435-seat House of Representatives.

Among the questions still in doubt:

--    Although South Carolina appears to have gained enough to pick up a new seat, Brace says it only has about 15,000 to 20,000 residents to spare in this extremely tight competition. State officials often make pronouncements about the importance of getting a full count, but this is especially true in South Carolina’s case. Problems around Census Day leading to an incomplete count “could be enough to take that seat away,” Brace said.

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