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Western States to Eclipse Midwest in Representation to U.S. House for First Time in History

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It took 160 years, but Western states will finally eclipse the Midwest in the number of Representatives it sends to D.C. in 2012

With final Census numbers to come in less than three months, state legislatures around the country are bracing for not simply how they must draw the new shape of their congressional district lines in the next year, but also how many.

While there is still some uncertainty in apportionment estimates as to which states will be on the short end of seat #435, one thing is for certain: the Midwest will no longer be the second most represented region in the U.S. House in 2012.

For the first time in U.S. history, Western states will send more Representatives to the U.S. House in 2012 (102 seats) than the Midwest (94 seats).

The Midwestern states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin will comprise just 21.6 percent of the 435-seat chamber - its lowest level since the 1840s.

The new apportionment numbers, based on 2010 Census estimates, continue a trend that has been happening for over a century - increasing population growth in the West (through settlement and, more recently, immigration), increasing growth in the South, and comparatively slower growth in the Midwest and the Northeast.

To be sure, much has changed over the decades in the geographic makeup of the House, as the Midwest used to be the country's most populous region.

In fact, Midwestern states held a plurality of House seats for a 70-year period, from 1873 through 1942.

After the 1870 Census, the nation's representation in the U.S. House was almost evenly divided between the Midwest (33.6 percent of seats), the Northeast (32.5 percent), and the South (31.8 percent). The West (at that time, California, Nevada, and Oregon) held just 2.1 percent of House seats.

While the proportional representation of the Midwest, South, and Northeast has risen and fallen over the decades ever since, the West has steadily been carving out a larger and larger share - first with the introduction of new states to the Union in the 1800s and 1900s, second, by America's increased settlement of the region, and third, by the influx of new immigrants from the Far East and the southern border.

After the 1900 Census, the West tallied 5.4 percent of all House seats, nearly doubling to 9.9 percent after the 1930 Census (43 seats).

It would take another fifty years for the West's representation to double once again, this time to 19.5 percent after the 1980 Census (85 seats).

Over the most recent Census periods, the West's proportional representation has increased to 21.4 percent after 1990 (93 seats), to 22.5 percent after 2000 (98 seats), and to an estimated 23.4 percent after the new 2010 numbers come out at the end of the year (102 seats).

As a result, for the first time in history, the 13-state Western region (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming) will have more Representation in the U.S. House than the 12-state Midwestern region.

Proportional Representation by Region in the U.S. House of Representatives by Census Period

Census
Midwest
West
South
Northeast
Const. Appor.
0.0
0.0
46.2
53.8
1790
0.0
0.0
45.7
54.3
1800
0.0
0.0
46.1
53.9
1810
3.3
0.0
43.1
53.6
1820
8.9
0.0
41.8
49.3
1830
12.9
0.0
40.4
46.7
1840
20.6
0.0
37.2
42.2
1850
24.4
0.9
35.5
39.3
1860
30.7
1.7
31.5
36.1
1870
33.6
2.1
31.8
32.5
1880
35.1
2.8
32.9
29.2
1890
36.0
4.8
31.5
27.8
1900
35.2
5.4
31.3
28.0
1910
32.9
7.6
31.3
28.3
1930
31.5
9.9
30.6
28.0
1940
30.1
11.3
31.0
27.6
1950
29.5
13.0
30.7
26.3
1960
28.7
15.9
30.6
24.8
1970
27.8
17.5
30.8
23.9
1980
26.0
19.5
32.6
21.8
1990
24.1
21.4
34.3
20.2
2000
23.0
22.5
35.4
19.1
2010*
21.6
23.4
37.0
17.9
* 2010 data estimated. Notes from the Office of the Clerk of the House of the U.S. Representative: The Constitution assigned the original apportionment of the Representatives between the different states based on population in 1787. These numbers remained in effect for the 1st and 2nd Congresses (1789-1793). No change was made after the 14th Census (1920), as Congress could not agree on a method for apportionment. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

Previous Smart Politics research has found the Midwest reached its peak level of representation after the 1890 Census, when 36.0 percent of the House (128 representatives) came from the 12-state region, as recently cited in a New York Times story on the Midwest.

When House levels were fixed at 435 members after the 1910 Census, the Midwest tallied 143 seats, or 32.9 percent of the lower chamber - tops in the nation with seven more seats than the 16-state Southern region and 20 more seats than the nine-state Northeastern region.

Over the next 100 years, Midwestern representation declined 34.3 percent to its projected level of 94 seats after 2010, with Ohio bracing to lose two seats along with one seat losses each from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and likely Missouri.

Michigan is the only state in the 12-state region that will emerge from the 2010 Census with more seats (14) than it held after the 1910 Census (13), although the Wolverine State will have dropped five seats from its peak level of 19 after the 1960 and 1970 Censuses.

Illinois will have lost nine seats over the past 100 years, with Iowa and Missouri losing seven each.

Change in Number of Midwestern U.S. Representatives by State after the 1910 and 2010 Censuses

State
1910
2010*
Change
% Change
North Dakota
3
1
-2
-66.7
South Dakota
3
1
-2
-66.7
Iowa
11
4
-7
-63.6
Kansas
8
4
-4
-50.0
Nebraska
6
3
-3
-50.0
Missouri
16
9
-7
-43.8
Illinois
27
18
-9
-33.3
Indiana
13
9
-4
-30.8
Minnesota
10
7
-3
-30.0
Ohio
22
16
-6
-27.3
Wisconsin
11
8
-3
-27.3
Michigan
13
14
1
+7.7
Total
143
94
-49
-34.3
* 2010 data estimated. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

But even though the Midwest has lost a good portion of its House membership over the last century, the region has enjoyed considerable influence on the political process in recent years, in part because of the powerful positions many of its Representatives have in the House.

For example, three of the seven Republican leadership slots are currently held by Midwesterners: Minority Leader John Boehner (OH-08), Conference Chair Mike Pence (IN-06), and Policy Committee Chairman Thad McCotter (MI-11).

The Midwest also holds five committee chairmanships: Dave Obey (WI-07) of Appropriations, John Conyers (MI-14) of the Judiciary Committee, Jim Oberstar (MN-08) of Transportation and Infrastructure, Collin Peterson (MN-07) of the Agriculture Committee, and Ike Skelton (MO-04) of the Armed Forces Committee. (Obey is retiring after this term).

On the GOP side, the Midwest also holds seven ranking member slots: Paul Ryan (WI-01) of the Budget Committee, Dave Camp (MI-04) of Ways and Means, John Kline (MN-02) of Education and Labor, Sam Graves (MO-06) of Small Business, Steve Buyer (IN-04) of Veterans' Affairs, Pete Hoekstra (MI-02) of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. (Buyer and Hoekstra will not be returning to the House in 2011).

But even as the region loses seats in the House, and thus electoral votes, don't expect the Midwest to be ignored in 2012.

Despite their comparative decline in population growth as a region, Midwestern voters will also continue to be highly courted in presidential elections.

In addition to kicking off the campaign season with the Iowa caucuses, the Midwest has the highest density of 'battleground states' of any region in the country, with Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin at or near the top of any 'purple state' list.

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Previous post: Republicans Positioned to Win Nine Midwestern U.S. Senate Seats for First Time Since 1920
Next post: The Still Very Long Odds of an Oberstar (or Walz) Defeat in November

1 Comment


  • See how the change in representation will affect the 2012 electoral map at http://www.270towin.com. Choose "Projected after 2010 Census" bottom left of map.

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