Red States Get Seat Revenge in Census

April 28, 2021

There's more than one way to get good government: move to it! According to the latest Census data, that's what a massive number of Americans who are sick of higher taxes, lockdowns, and regulations are doing. In other words, there's more than one set of migrant caravans in North America -- and the legal ones are pulling up to homes in places like California and New York, loading up the belongings of thousands of families and driving them to freer, cheaper states like Texas. You don't just have to vote at the ballot box, Chuck DeVore points out. You can vote with a U-Haul too.

Apart from any election, the Census report is probably the most anticipated event on the parties' calendars. Every 10 years, the government adjusts the number of congressional seats and electoral votes based on the decade's population shifts. This year's count, most people expected, would change the political landscape a lot. With people fleeing states like California faster than you can say "Gavin Newsom," the bluest parts of the map were bound to take a hit. This week, the bureau confirmed, they did.

For the first time in history, the state of California is losing a congressional seat, along with liberal bastions like Illinois, Michigan, New York, and more moderate neighbors like Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Alabama, Rhode Island, and Minnesota -- where some change was expected -- just barely avoided the same fate. In fact, less than 100 residents -- 89 -- made the difference between Minnesota losing a representative and keeping it!

The big winners, though, as Dave Wasserman explains on the Cook Political Report, are the states like Texas, where thousands of families are moving to escape the oppressive leadership and tax rates of the West Coast. The Lone Star State alone picked up two House seats, and Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Colorado, and Oregon all added one. For DeVore, who's been following these trends for years, all of the signs were there. "This has been going on for quite some time and there's various ways of measuring it," he said on "Washington Watch." You can look at the tax levels, for instance. Another way to measure it, DeVore points out, is through the Fraser Institute, who tracks the "economic freedom" of states.

"It looks at taxation, it looks at government spending, and it looks at labor law, union strength. And what's fascinating about that is if you look at the bottom five states in the new Fraser ranking--New York, Vermont, Alaska, California, and West Virginia -- every state that could lose a state did lose the seat." (Vermont and Alaska can't lose any more, since they only have one. "So it's an interesting indication that people like freedom. They don't like to live in these oppressive high tax states." Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas, on the other hand, are the "freest" five states in American, and they're adding blue state refugees faster than most leaders can count.

"When people vote -- with a moving van or a U-Haul truck -- they vote for lower taxes and smaller government," DeVore explains. Even Silicon Valley, where some of the most radical employers in the company are headquartered, is bleeding technology firms. Joe Lonsdale, who runs a $3.6 billion dollar venture-capital firm, finally admitted in the Wall Street Journal last November, "I love California, but I had to leave."

Of course, in the big picture, what also matters is the Electoral College. Not only did these "freer" states win more congressional seats, they also won a bigger slice of the presidential pie. For the next 10 years, Texas has two more electoral votes, and Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, and Montana have one extra. The same goes for the states that lost a seat -- California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Come November 2024, their influence in picking the next president will also slightly wane. In 2020's election, it wouldn't have affected the outcome. Joe Biden would have won by 303 electoral votes instead of 306. But in future elections, who knows? It could end up being a significant reward for states who create the kind of friendly economic climate more families and businesses are looking for.

As for the more impending effects -- like the 2022 midterms -- DeVore believes it "increases the odds that [there will be] a shift in who holds the speaker's gavel." Republicans could gain as many as eight seats based on this new map, experts think. And thanks to the current make-up in most state legislatures, Wasserman explains, "Republicans have the final authority to draw congressional lines in 187 districts, down from 219 seats in 2011. Democrats will have final authority in states totaling 75 districts, up from 44 in 2011. New bipartisan commissions passed by voters in Colorado, Michigan and Virginia bring the number of commission-drawn districts to 121 up from 88 ten years ago. And there are 46 districts in states where control is split between the parties, down from 77."

So as frustrating and appalling as the first 100 days of the Biden administration have been, take hope. State elections have consequences too -- and those conservative leaders and representatives voters picked up last fall are the most underappreciated story of 2020. Those statewide elections are about to play a major role in backstopping the Biden agenda -- and, based on his first three months, not a moment too soon.