California will lose one congressional seat next year because its population growth has been slower than other states, marking the first time in California’s 170-year history that its political power will shrink in Congress.
The change, announced Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau, means California will contest 52 House of Representatives seats in the 2022 election and lose one electoral vote in the 2024 presidential election.
The lost seat is expected to come from the Los Angeles area, though lines are likely to be redrawn throughout the state. Other states with bigger population gains will pick up seats, notably Texas, which will add two.
Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will each gain a seat. In addition to California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will each lose a seat.
California remained by far the state with the nation’s largest population, 39.5 million. Nationally, population grew 7.4% during the decade. But because California grew at a 6.1% pace, it lost a seat.
The census finding illustrates a dramatic slowdown from the boom that California has enjoyed from the time it became a state on September 9, 1850. It had two House members at the time.
In the 20th century, the state’s population exploded from less than 2 million people in 1900 to 34 million by 2000.
Its congressional delegation — and its clout — also grew, from eight House members in 1900 to 53 in 2000. In 2007, Nancy Pelosi became the first House speaker from California.
California spent almost $200 million on its own census outreach program, working to make sure residents completed surveys. It also battled the Trump administration in court, fighting the former president’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the census and to subtract undocumented residents from the process that determines how many members of Congress each state receives.
California beat the Trump administration in court on those cases, but it’s still losing a seat.
Why did California population slow?
Among the reasons the state’s population growth trailed the nation:
▪ Fertility rate. California’s rate dropped twice as rapidly as the national rate. That meant 350,000 fewer children in California over this 10-year period, the state Finance Department found.
▪ Foreign migration. Net foreign migration accounted for between 0.4 and 0.5% of the state’s annual population increase in the first half of the decade. But starting in 2017, it began to decline to less than 0.1% in 2020, largely because of federal policies affecting immigration, the department said.
▪ Domestic migration. The state had “negative net domestic migration,” Census said, meaning more people left California for other states than moved in.
“That all adds up to a sudden, pretty steep decline in population growth just in the last few years,” said Eric McGhee, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.
In the last decade, 1.3 million more people left California for other states than migrated here from other states, according to a report last month by the Public Policy Institute of California.
“The flow out of the state was especially stark in the last two years, with a net loss of almost 500,000 people,” it said.
Will Los Angeles delegation shrink?
The decision on how lines will be redrawn will be decided by the state’s 14-member redistricting commission, which includes five Democrats, five Republicans and four unaffiliated voters. Congressional districts are adjusted every 10 years to reflect population changes from the new census.
The 14-member commission is expected to release drafts of district maps between November and December of this year, according to the commission’s website.
Four districts in downtown and East Los Angeles — the 27th, 32nd, 38th and 40th — “appear to be most at risk of becoming the district California loses in 2021,” said a 2019 report by Claremont McKenna College’s Rose Institute of State and Local Government.
All of those districts are represented by veteran Latino or Asian-American members of Congress: Democrats Judy Chu, Grace Napolitano, Linda Sanchez and Lucille Roybal-Allard.
The state’s congressional delegation currently has 42 Democrats and 11 Republicans.
California Republicans seized on the news, arguing policies carried out by Democratic leaders depressed growth.
Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, took to Twitter to say: “We just lost a seat in Congress. If the California Exodus is a myth, apparently the Census Bureau is in on it.”