Some numbers are out from the U.S. Census Bureau’s massive project that happens every 10 years, and Arizonans are shocked. Despite the fact that the state added three-quarters of a million people, or 11.6%, to reach more than 7 million, we will not be adding a 10th member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Arizona’s delegation had gained by at least one from every census since 1950.
Arizona was not alone among Sun Belt states that “underperformed” expectations. Texas is adding two House members and Florida one; each of them was expected to have one besides that. Some observers are saying that the more conservative states were not as aggressive at finding reclusive residents, and this might be related to their relationship with new Latino inhabitants. Analysis will continue for some time, but another factor is that U.S. population growth slowed, with one apparent cause being the Great Recession. With that said, the population still is growing in Arizona and elsewhere, with some areas becoming more overcrowded.
COVID-19 affected the census effort, but how is not yet well known. The bureau starts with estimates, and some Sun Belt states were further below estimates than the Northern states. It is clear that there has been a major population shift from California, New York and other states during the pandemic, but that came too late to be included.
Arizona and other states have begun the work of redrawing political districts, and that has been slowed due to COVID-related delays in the census. Arizona may not be gaining a House seat, but boundaries will change nonetheless. Pinal County has had major growth and should stand to gain stature in its districts. For two decades we have been part of a massive congressional district, and ours should shrink somewhat. The independent commission that redraws districts also will be doing the same job for the Legislature. At the same time, county supervisor and community college districts will be recreated as well.
The census, required by the U.S. Constitution, is a difficult and imperfect process. It is over for another decade, but the more interesting, related process of redrawing districts is just beginning.
— Donovan Kramer Jr.