Last month, I expressed skepticism about the likelihood of Oregon picking up a sixth congressional seat.
The 2008 numbers are now out from the Census Bureau, and there are some surprising results.
While we continued to outpace the nation in population growth, our rate of growth has slowed, but our prospects for a sixth seat appear to have improved.
Looking at this a few different ways:
- Our growth rate has slowed. From 2007 to 2008, we grew 1.14%, down from 1.26% the previous year, and 1.70% the year before that.
- While our growth rate has slowed, we're still ahead of the national curve. From the 2000 hard count to the 2008 estimate, Oregon grew 10.78% while the nation grew 8.05%. Oregon ranks 13th in growth, among 18 states that grew faster than the nation. (Only two states have actually lost population since 2000 - North Dakota and Louisiana.)
- In 2000, Oregon was 1.218% of the nation's population. By 2007, we were up to 1.245% of the nation. This year, we've picked up slightly and we're now 1.249% of the national population. If the most recent one-year trend holds for two years, we could be as much as 1.279% of the nation in the 2010 census
Last month, I told you that we needed our growth to speed up - not slow down - if we want to pick up a sixth seat. Of course, there's another option: even more dramatic slowdowns amongst some of our nearest on-the-bubble competitors. Michigan, for example, is now in it's third (and biggest) year of negative population growth. Rhode Island, it's fourth straight negative year.
What does all this mean for reapportionment?
Our prospects have improved slightly. If reapportionment were based on the 2008 Census Bureau estimate, Oregon would stay at five seats -- but we're now at #437, just two spots out. Last year, we were four spots out. (Overall: +3 for TX, +1 for AZ FL GA NC NV, -1 for IA LA MA MI NJ NY OH PA. Compared to 2007, that's one less for MI and NJ, one more for TX, and MO gains back the seat it would have lost.)
But for the next two years, we can expect the numbers to keep shifting in our direction. If 2009 and 2010 look like the eight-year trend since 2000, then we'll pick up that sixth seat. We'll be at 1.261% of the national population and we'll get the very last seat, #435. A year ago, we were a little better off at #434 on this trendline. (Overall: +4 for TX, +2 for AZ FL NC, +1 for GA NV OR SC, -1 for IL IA LA MA MI MN MO NJ, -2 for NY OH PA. Compared to 2007, that's one less for MN and PA, and one more for NC and SC.)
The most recent one-year trend favors Oregon even more strongly. Even though the last year was the weakest year since 2004, if we just maintain our current 2008 pace in 2009 and 2010, we'll pick up that sixth seat - and do it handily, at #429. A year ago, we were at #432. (Overall: +5 for TX, +2 for AZ GA NC, +1 for CO FL NV OR SC UT WA, -1 for AL IL IA MA MN MO NJ RI, -2 for CA MI NY OH PA. Compared to a year ago, that's one less for CA FL MI PA RI, one more for GA TX UT WA, and LA gains back the seat it would have lost.) An aside: this would be a fascinating development - the West picks up seats across the region (two in AZ, one each in CO NV OR UT WA) except California, which would lose two seats.
Given how close we are to the 2010 census, and assuming that the most recent economic trends will tend to be even more accentuated after this estimate, done in July 2008, I've shifted from a pessimistic outlook on reapportionment to a cautiously optimistic outlook.
I'm not sure anybody should be gearing up a congressional campaign for 2012 just yet, but the map nerds oughta start thinking about how a six-seat Oregon would look.
Update: Just noticed that Jeff Mapes has a post up about the new numbers too, though he's still quite skeptical - "I wouldn't take the bet Oregon will get a sixth seat unless you get good odds." I'd say the odds are more like 50/50.