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Study: Michigan to lose another House seat after 2020

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Michigan is expected to lose another seat in Congress after the 2020 election, according to an analysis of the population data released by the Census Bureau last week.

The Virginia-based Election Data Services found, using three different models, that if the population trend continues through 2020, Michigan is among 10 states that would lose a congressional district.

Michigan would go from having 14 representatives in the U.S. House to 13 representatives.

Several states, including Texas, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon and North Carolina, could gain seats, continuing a shift in power in Congress from the Northeast to the South and West.

U.S. Census data released Wednesday indicated that Michigan’s population increased by 28,866 residents, or 0.3 percent, to 9,962,311, as of July 2017 — the first time that more people moved to Michigan than left it since before 2001.

Fewer Michigan residents are moving to other states, with domestic migration dropping nearly 50 percent, according to the census report.

That growth is not enough to counter significant population loss earlier in the decade, however.

Michigan would need at least 146,000 more people to keep from losing its 14th seat after 2020, said Kimball W. Brace, president of Election Data Services.

“Certainly, the Census Bureau says slightly more people are moving back in, but you have to take into account that’s compared to what’s happening in the other 49 states,” Brace said.

“All three of our trend lines show Michigan losing a seat and not possibly gaining a seat after 2020.”

Among the other states projected to lose a seat are New York, West Virginia, Illinois, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

The Constitution requires that seats in the U.S. House of Representatives be reapportioned among the states every 10 years according to the results of the census. Seats in the House have been capped at 435 by law since 1941.

Each state gets at least one seat in the House, and the remaining 385 seats are allocated based on a mathematical formula that accounts for the population of each state.

Michigan had 19 representatives in the House in 1970. It lost one after the 1980 census, two after 1990, one after the 2000 census, and another after 2010.

Brace cautioned that the projections are preliminary and could always change.

For example, both his firm and the Census Bureau in 2005 had projected that Louisiana would gain a seat in Congress after the 2010 census.

The destruction of Hurricane Katrina caused an exodus from the New Orleans area, and Louisiana ended up losing a representative.

“If suddenly Detroit turns around, auto sales go gangbusters, and everyone comes back into the city, then certainly that could change things around,” Brace said.

Another consideration, he added, is how well the census is conducted, noting that since the change in administration the bureau hasn’t been funded as it was in recent build-ups to a decennial census.

“Certainly, we’re still far enough away from the census that states can have a way of potentially changing things if they push a good and complete count and that kind of an effort,” Brace said.

Michigan’s demographer, Eric Guthrie, has predicted Michigan’s population could surpass 10 million in 2020.

“Michigan is still not back to the peak population registered in the last decade, but this continued progress will likely see the state cross the 10 million mark again in the not too distant future,” he said.


Staff writer Christine MacDonald contributed