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Census data kicks off congressional redistricting cycle

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After months of delays, the U.S. Census Bureau has released data on which states will gain congressional districts in the 2022 elections and which will lose out. Politico state political reporter Zach Montellaro joins CBSN's "Red & Blue" host Elaine Quijano to discuss why Florida, Texas and Arizona gained fewer seats than expected.

Video Transcript

ELAINE QUIJANO: After months of delay, the US Census Bureau has released data from its 2020 census count. Laura Podesta has more on the impact, including which states are losing seats in Congress.

LAURA PODESTA: The US population is growing at the slowest rate in nearly a century. Just under 331 and 1/2 million people now call our country home. The 2020 Census says more Americans are moving South and West. Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia are all losing one of their seats in the House of Representatives.

The same goes for here in New York, which just barely lost a seat. It wouldn't have if just 89 more people had been counted. And California lost a seat for the first time ever.

- Cost of living. People aren't moving to California quite the way they used to because it's really expensive in much of California.

LAURA PODESTA: On the flip side, North Carolina, Florida, Oregon, Montana, and Colorado are each picking up one seat. Texas is picking up two. Four of those six states voted Republican in the presidential election.

STEPHEN KLINEBERG: It's a nice confirmation of what we've been watching them kind of moving away from California into Texas largely on the basis of housing costs.

LAURA PODESTA: Many, though, are questioning the census data because it was gathered during a pandemic.

BOB STEIN: We undercounted people in urban areas mostly because those were the areas that were hardest hit by COVID. And people did not want to open their doors.

LAURA PODESTA: In addition to determining how much weight each state holds in the House of Representatives, the census also determines the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding. Laura Podesta, CBS News.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Now that we know the place is gaining US House seats, it'll be up to the 50 states to decide how to redraw their maps. The once per decade tradition is an opportunity for state lawmakers to exert control over their residents representation in Washington.

Legislators typically have the biggest say, but some states use other methods, like independent commissions. Republicans have total control of the map drawing process for about 180 House seats in the states seen here in red. That's compared to around 70 for Democrats.

Zach Montellaro has been covering this all for Politico and joins me now. Hi, there, Zach. So Republican-controlled states are walking away from the process with more seats. And traditionally, Democratic states are losing. But as you report, these changes are smaller than expected. So what happened, Zach?

ZACH MONTELLARO: Yeah, so it was kind of very surprising. We saw the direction of the movement was expected like we saw out of the Northeast and out of the Rust Belt to the South to the sunbelt and to the West. But only seven seats moved. That's the smallest number of that since the 1940s. And states like Texas, Florida, Arizona we're expected to pick up a collective six House seats. They collectively picked up three.

I think the biggest surprise was the fact that Arizona didn't get a single new seat at all. And all this is to say that, you know, the movement happened. The movement happened in the direction that we thought it was. But the fact that it's a relatively stable map, all things considered, was kind of a big shock.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, this whole process was delayed by President Trump's ultimately defeated effort to include a citizenship question on the census. When you look at heavily Latino states, like Florida, Texas, and Arizona growing less than expected, is there any concern this proposal targeting undocumented people could have led to an undercount?

ZACH MONTELLARO: Yeah, so it's absolutely a double whammy. It wouldn't be just that proposal to include the citizenship question which ultimately didn't make it. But it was in the air for years basically. It was that. It was the pandemic.

We don't have demographic data yet. That's not coming until this summer. So a lot of this is just speculation. But the seats that were expected to gain so much-- Texas, Arizona, Florida-- are the ones that didn't gain as much as we thought. And all three of those states are very heavily Latino populations.

Already, lawmakers in those states are trying to figure out what happened-- what went wrong. And right now, a lot of that blame is coming on the fact that maybe Latino populations were undercounted.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, as you report, Democrats have been trying to dig themselves out of the hole they were left in after 2010's redistricting. The executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust told Politico, quote, "Republican control across the country has gone down from where it was in 2011."

But you have to remember that in 2011, Republicans were at the highest point we've seen-- we've been in a century. And so now, we're at the second highest point that we've been in a century. Zach, bottom line. Where do you see this headed now given this trend?

ZACH MONTELLARO: Yeah, so certainly Republicans have lost control in 2010. Democrats really couldn't get much worse than where they were in the 2010 districting cycle. But if you're taking bets, if you're looking at the 2022 midterms, all things point right now to Republicans having the edge to pick up the House.

It's both historically, midterms are never good for the party in power. Democrats control the entirety of Washington. And Republicans control more of the redistricting process in states that matter and growing states in Texas and Florida. You know, even in states, like Georgia, which didn't gain or lose any House states and will remain the same number of seats, Republicans still control the process there as well.

That's not to say Democrats don't have their strongholds-- Illinois. New York has an independent redistricting commission that will likely be overruled by Democratic lawmakers in the state. So Democrats do have a chance to draw their own maps in very big Democratic states. But by and large, Republicans are the ones who control the process in a lot of key states.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, Democrats, meanwhile, are already launching lawsuits in states with split control of redistricting, like Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Louisiana, under the expectation that a bipartisan map will never be agreed upon. So Zach, what are they aiming for?

ZACH MONTELLARO: Yeah, you know, these lawsuits kind of caught me by surprise. There's no surprise that lawsuits are going to be coming because of the census because of redistricting. Once the maps are drawn, we see lawsuits in more or less, every state, not quite.

A little bit of exaggeration but not by much. But the fact that these lawsuits came so early, we haven't gotten the redistricting numbers yet. It caught me by surprise. But what these lawsuits say-- what they're laying out is saying to the courts, listen, we're not going to come to an agreement in this state.

All three of those states-- Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Louisiana-- have a Democratic governor. And they have either a Republican-controlled legislature or a split legislature saying, they're not going be able to draw a map. So listen, courts, you don't need to draw a map now. But you need to start preparing to draw the map. We have much, much shorter time frame this redistricting cycle compared to last one because of the delay in census data.

So that's why probably why these lawsuits are coming down. This entire process, entire cycle is just going to be very hectic and very insane. It's taking a process that normally lasts a year, eight, nine months. And it's really compressed in that into 5, 6 months. So it's going to be a lot of lawsuits very quickly across the country.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Yeah, I mean, there is so much at stake. We've talked about this before on red and blue. When you talk about the census, talk about redistricting, you are talking specifically about the accumulation and the fight for power and the money that can come with that. Zach Montellaro. Zach, thank you so much.

ZACH MONTELLARO: Thank you for having me.