By Morgan Wright
New York City, New York
For the first time in history, the state of California is going to lose congressional seats and electoral college votes. They are losing one congressional seat and one electoral vote in the 2024 election. The population remains the nation’s largest, with 39.5 million people, but over the last 10 years, it grew at 6.1 percent, slower than the national state average of 7.4 percent.
California became a state in 1850, with two house members. Between 1900 and 2000, the population ballooned from 2 million to 34 million. Its congressional delegation grew from eight to 53 over the same period. The number of congressional seats remained the same or grew every decade. California will now lose a seat in the next election due to the 2020 census.
However, California is not alone. Other states, such as Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio are also expected to lose seats due to slower population growth. These seats are being redistributed to faster growing states which include Oregon, Montana, Colorado, North Carolina, Florida and especially Texas, which will pick up two seats.
The westward expansion of the United States had been an uninterrupted phenomenon since the days of Lewis and Clark. The redistribution of seats in some ways could reflect the maturity of the country, as westward growth cannot be dominant forever.
Over the last ten years, California has lost 1.3 million net migration, meaning that 1.3 million more people have left the state than have come in. Some reasons why we are seeing this decline in growth could be lower fertility rates, higher housing costs and slower immigration. Nevertheless, it could also be possible that a large population of immigrants who have recently entered the country will allow California to storm back if they become citizens. California has more undocumented residents than any other state in the country. The number of unauthorized immigrants almost equates to the entire population of the state of Connecticut, which could potentially have significance on future census numbers, as Connecticut has five members in congress.
Many people are finding California less attractive compared to similar alternatives, such as Texas or Florida. Until the end of the last century, many saw California as the American dream. This new decline in growth directly impacts the state’s political power.