Get Ready for 'the Amazing Apportionment Machine'

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Updated 9 a.m. 12/21/10

How excited are you about the political impact of the decennial Census results that are coming out this morning?

Well, the U.S. Census is all aflutter about the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives and has put together a jazzy little video about what's going to go down.

Key take home: What's happening today is apportionment, the distribution of the 435 House seats between the 50 states (or rather, of 385 seats, as each state gets at least one seat, eliminating 50 from the process). That will be followed over the course of the year by redistricting, which is the much more cumbersome and variable and protracted process by which each state will decide the geographic boundaries for their House seats over the course of 2011.

Notably, this is the first apportionment to take place in the blog and social media era, and so seems likely to draw broader public attention than past shifts, such as the reassignment of 12 seats between states in 2000.

National Journal's Richard E. Cohen has written the definitive take on the redistricting battles to come and the struggle to get more seats drawn in a way favorable to Latinos as their share of the population has increased.

But for now, enjoy the Census Bureau's School House Rock-like take on "the amazing apportionment machine" -- "another gift from our nation's founders."

Other fun apportionment facts, courtesy of Politics Daily's Walter Shapiro:

  • The last time a state north of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Continental Divide gained a House seat was in 1960.
  • New York has lost House seats in every Census since 1950.

The results of the 2010 Census will be released at 11 a.m. Tuesday at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington that will be accompanied by a live Webcast.

This year, the North of the Mason-Dixon, East of the Continental Divide states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa and Louisiana are expected to lose a seat each, while Ohio could lose two, according to the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan.

California, with the largest House delegation, is likely to keep its seats, while Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington are predicted to be likely to each gain one, according to the center.

Texas will be the real winner, with three to four additional seats, if predictions hold.

The apportionment of seats between the states also determines the number of Electoral Collage votes each states has.

Democratic-voting blue states will find their power marginally diminished if seats continue to flow to states that fall into the red column in presidential contests, as expected.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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