Washington state's clout in Congress will grow in the 2012 elections cycle if population trends continue, giving the state a 10th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
That was the initial indication Wednesday after an analysis by the Virginia-based political consulting firm Election Data Services. The firm is crunching new Census Bureau population estimates to identify how the states might equally apportion the nation’s 435 House seats.
EDS’ report on the July 1 population estimates by the Census shows that seven states, mostly in the South and far West, would gain a seat, while a few in the Midwest would lose seats – including two in Ohio, a key battleground state in recent elections. Under apportionment, congressional districts are supposed to be relatively equal in size.
The state population figures foreshadow a political realignment that will occur after the 2010 Census, which is used to determine the reapportionment of seats in the House.
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“This is very good news for Washington – a greater voice in the Other Washington,” Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican, said in a statement.
“I think we’re all excited Washington might add a district. It means more political clout for our state. Obviously, it’s good news,” added state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz.
“Thurston County is very much in play if we add a new district,” Pelz added, cautioning that it is “very hard to tell where a new district would go.”
Most of Thurston County already is on the northernmost edge of the 3rd Congressional District, which covers Southwest Washington. The northeast portion of the county is in the 9th Congressional District.
Reed spokesman David Ammons said the state picked up 100,000 people in the past year, a 13 percent gain that makes the state the 13th most populous, with an estimated 6.66 million residents. The state has gained about 770,000 since the 2000 Census, figures show.
Reed based his comments on the 17-page report released by EDS. It showed Washington could gain a seat at the expense of Oregon, which had been considered a candidate for the 435th seat. Reed’s office said Washington appears to be getting the nod at this point by a margin of just under “25,000 souls.”
How the results will play out on Washington’s electoral map won’t be known until after apportionment determines how many congressional seats each state gets. Washington has a special redistricting commission that will be impaneled in 2011 to draw up the new boundaries for the state’s nine or 10 congressional seats and its 49 legislative districts.
The new political map for congressional districts and 49 legislative districts would be based on equal distribution of state population that the two Democrats and two Republicans on the commission agree to.
State Republican Chairman Luke Esser could not be reached to comment.
Democrats hold six of the state’s nine House seats and both Senate seats.
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The Washington Post contributed to this report.