WASHINGTON — The coming year is going to be about more than choosing a new president; it’s going to be about creating a new Electoral College map. The 2020 Census will lead to a new congressional apportionment that will lead to a new path to the 270 electoral votes for winning the White House, beginning in 2024.
But data analysts already have a pretty good idea of what the new map may look like. And one projected map released last week shows some major moves, most of which might favor Republicans, at least in the short term.
The map from Election Data Services finds that 10 different states are likely to lose one House seat, and therefore one electoral vote, in the next congressional reapportionment. Looking at the 2016 election results, those losses are evenly spread politically among blue and red states.
On the red side of the ledger, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia all look ready to lose an electoral vote. On the blue side, the victims are California, Illinois, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island. That’s minus five for the Republican 2016 map and minus five for the Democrats.
There are some surprises on that list. For instance, California is slated to lose a seat for the first time ever and that’s despite gaining more than 2 million in population since 2010. That’s a lot of people, but it looks like it’s not going to be enough to hold on to the state’s current allotment of 53 House seats in the next accounting.
If those are the losses, which states are gaining? There are five states that are slated to gain one congressional seat and one vote. And Republicans see a gain here.
Arizona, Montana and North Carolina all look like they are going to pick up one seat and they all voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. On the Democratic side, Colorado and Oregon, which voted for Hillary Clinton, are in line to add a seat.
Add all those pluses and minuses up and you get a net gain of one for the GOP in the Electoral College.
But the Republicans get bigger wins when you factor in two states that are supposed to see larger additions to their congressional delegations: Texas and Florida.
Florida, the perpetual presidential battleground, is estimated to gain two House seats in the next congressional reapportionment. That would bring its total electoral vote count to 31, moving it out of a tie with New York to become the third-largest presidential prize.
And Texas, which has long been a safe Republican state, looks like it will pick up three congressional seats, upping its electoral vote count to 41.
Taken together, the changes on the electoral map would equal an even bigger win for a future GOP nominee who could follow Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral path to victory. That Republican would capture 309 electoral votes, 80 more votes than the Democrats 229.
But before Republicans start popping open champagne, there are a few other factors to consider beyond the closeness of the vote in several key states in 2016.
All the numbers here are based on changes: states growing larger or smaller because of migration, birth rates and death rates. And those changes aren’t suddenly going to stop. These places are still changing.
Consider Texas, the fastest grower on the list. There are signs that as the state adds population, it is becoming more politically competitive. In 2016, Trump won Texas by less than 10 percentage points. That was low compared to Mitt Romney’s nearly 16-point win in the 2012 presidential race. And in 2018, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz won re-election in the state by only about 2.5 points.
There are big demographic changes afoot in the state. Since 2010, its white, non-Hispanic population has declined by four percentage points. Meanwhile, the percentage of white, non-Hispanic voters with a college degree has climbed by five points.
Those demographic trends both favor Democrats. They are not likely to reverse themselves and they could have big impacts in the years ahead.
For years, political observers have wondered what politics would look like if deep-blue California, the nation’s most populous state by far, became a battleground. California has 55 electoral votes.
In the forecasted post-2020 world, Texas and Florida together would have 72 electoral votes. Imagine a quarter of the electoral votes needed to win the White House in just two hotly-contested states. That’s not just a different electoral map, it’s a different political world.