Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shrinking influence

Though the state's population has continued to reverse an earlier trend by growing slightly in each of the past three years, it looks like Massachusetts may lose another Congressional seat after the 2010 census, part of a continuing slide of population and power from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West.

In 1813, the Bay State sent 20 people to the House of Representatives, a body of 182 at that time. We haven't had that much national influence since. In the early part of the 20th Century the size of the House was stabilized at 435 -- 16 of those from Massachusetts; from there the state's delegation has been slowly shedding members.

Currently we have 10: Barney Frank, William Delahunt, Edward Markey, Michael Capuano, James McGovern, Richard Neal, John Tierney, Stephen Lynch, John Olver and Niki Tsongas. If we do, indeed, need to shrink the delegation, two of the current House members will be lumped into the same district and forced to run against one another. Reapportionment -- the process of redrawing the Congressional districts -- is unfortunately fraught with politics, and it is likely that the jockeying will begin soon, if it hasn't already.

Early projections have seats also being lost by Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, while seats may be gained in Arizona (possibly two), Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Utah. The regional trends are clear in that list (and the exception, Louisiana, is due to the population decrease after Hurricane Katrina).

Apportionment also effects presidential politics, as the number of electoral votes a state has is determined by the number of House and Senate seats combined. Massachusetts had 12 in this year's election, but may have one less in 2012.

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