Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Census Bureau Reports Utah's Population Grew By 23.8 Percent During Past Decade; State Now Qualifies For Fourth U.S. House Seat

On December 21st, 2010, the Census Bureau released national and state 2010 census statistics so that the process of reapportioning the U.S. House of Representatives can begin. Other census data will not be released until February 2011. The overall population of the U.S. is now 308,745,538, representing a growth of 9.7 percent since the 2000 census.

And the population changes show that while 10 states, mostly in the northeast, will lose House seats because of static or declining population, eight states, primarily in the southeast, the southwest, and the Intermountain west, will gain seats. Utah, whose population increased by 530,716 people to 2,763,885, up 23.8 percent since 2000 and now ranked 34th in the nation, will gain a fourth House seat. University of Utah research economist Pam Perlich said about 70 percent of Utah’s growth during the decade came from natural increase from Utah’s highest-in-the-nation birth rate. She said the other 30 percent came from in-migration from other states and nations, mostly during the early part of the decade when Utah’s economy was booming and people came seeking jobs.

Embedded below is a Census Bureau graphic; you can scroll horizontally or vertically to see the entire output, or view a larger version HERE:

Already, Utah's politicos are not only staking out possible claims to the prospective reapportioned House seats in 2012, but are also preparing to slice up the state. Possible candidates include Rep. Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman) and Rep. Dave Clark (R-Santa Clara). Other names mentioned include former 2nd District candidate Morgan Philpot, who would like to keep the current 2nd District intact as much as possible, new House Speaker Becky Lockhart (R-Provo), and Sen. Margaret Dayton (R-Orem). State Senate and House districts will also be re-drawn, but this process won't begin until March 2011 at the earliest, and is expected to take all summer.

Federal reapportionment will likely take one of two forms:

(1). Winner take all. Carl Wimmer likes this idea. The objective here would be to break up the deep blue Salt Lake area and parcel it out among at least two other House districts. The result is that all four House districts would be red, meaning four Republican House members. Democrats are likely to object, though, and one-party rule isn't necessarily healthy.

(2). Organize the immediate Salt Lake area as its own district. Under this plan, Salt Lake County east of I-15 would become a House district, knowing that a responsible Democrat would be the persistent favorite to win election from this district. Having at least one Democratic House member gives Utah a nominal political pipeline into the House Democratic leadership, which can be helpful if the House ever passes back to Democratic control. There are responsible Democrats; Jim Matheson, Sam Granato, and even Peter "Police Fee" Corroon are examples. The resultant breakout from this proposal:

-- First District: Northern Utah down to the Salt Lake County line, and Tooele.

-- Second District: Salt Lake County east of I-15, and perhaps Summit County.

-- Third District: Salt Lake County west of I-15, and Western Utah down to St. George (with I-15 as the rough dividing line).

-- Fourth District: Utah County and the rest of the state.

Another advantage of this plan is that each district would be anchored by a major population center. Boundaries would have to be fine-tuned to assure equal population; desired numbers are put forth on the Utah Senate Site.

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