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Maryland Will Keep 8 Seats in U.S. House, Census Officials Say

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Maryland will keep its eight seats in the House of Representatives in the next round of redistricting, Census Bureau officials announced Monday.

Maryland joins 36 other states keeping the same amount of U.S. Representatives during the next round of redistricting.

For six states, the long-awaited census results mean they’ll gain representation in Congress: Fast-growing Texas will add two seats, and five states will each add one seat: Florida (which surpassed New York to become the third-largest state), North Carolina, Colorado, Montana and Oregon.

Because the House must remain at 435 lawmakers, seven states will have fewer representatives, after either losing population over the last 10 years or not growing as quickly as other states. New York, California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia all will see their federal delegations shrink by one legislator starting in 2023.

Overall, there were 331,449,281 people living in the U.S. on April 1, 2020, an increase of 7.4% since 2010. That’s the slowest growth in a decade since the 1930s, and the second-slowest growth rate in U.S. history.

Maryland had a population of 6,177,224 in the 2020 Census, according to the newly released data, representing a 7% increase since 2010. That’s a drop from the 9% increase the state saw between 2000 and 2010, according to the data.

The apportionment changes, including population totals, are the first round of data to be released from the 2020 census.

Block-by-block population data that state officials need to draw districts of equal size will be released by Aug. 16 as an untabulated “legacy format summary file,” according to a Census Bureau release.

Although that data will be available as a legacy format summary file in mid-August, some states might be faced with an even longer wait for specific results. According to a separate release from the Census Bureau, “most states lack the capacity or resources to tabulate the data from these summary files on their own,” and tabulated data will be available by Sept. 30.

Even after Maryland officials receive the data, it will need to be adjusted to comply with Maryland law and have incarcerated individuals reallocated to their last known address, according to the Maryland Department of Planning website. State officials estimate that process will take at least an additional 30 days before the redistricting data is finalized.

Census officials originally planned to get redistricting data to states by March 31, but that date was pushed back after the COVID-19 pandemic waylaid their counting process.

Those delays could put Maryland lawmakers — and candidates for Congress and the General Assembly uncertain whether they’ll still be living within a district’s boundaries — on a time crunch: While Maryland law doesn’t set a strict deadline for drawing congressional districts, state legislative districts must be proposed by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) to the General Assembly by Jan. 12, 2022. Those recommendations will become law unless lawmakers tack on their own changes by Feb. 26.

The candidacy deadline for Republican and Democratic congressional and legislative hopefuls is Feb. 22, 2022.

In 2010, the General Assembly met in a special session in October to approve congressional district lines.

Some states with even tighter deadlines written into law might have to change their redistricting laws to cope with the delays, according to a Brennan Center Analysis.

Hogan’s multi-partisan Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, which he created via executive order earlier this year, is currently mulling how to work around the Census delays, commission co-chair Walter Olson (R) told Maryland Matters.

“It’s going to mean that we get hard, usable numbers months later than we would have hoped,” Olson said, adding that working around the Census delay will be among the commission’s top agenda items.

“The goal is to get as much work as we can done, including many hearings, before the Census Bureau comes through,” Olson said.

The redistricting commission, which earlier this month announced its full membership, will conduct public hearings in the coming months before making final recommendations to Hogan. They’ll aim to recommend geographically compact districts that aren’t meant to favor any party over another – and will also consider dividing state legislative maps into single-member districts.

Defending the census process

Typically, the state-level population data released Monday would have been provided by the end of December, but that process was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The census tallies how many people are living in the U.S. on April 1, and last year, that date fell shortly after states had issued lockdown orders aimed at curbing spread of the coronavirus. That scrambled plans for following up door-to-door with those who did not fill out the form.

“We advertised on pizza boxes, instead of during basketball games,” said Ron Jarmin, acting director of the Census Bureau. “Our partners joined us in reaching people at food banks and in school cafeterias, instead of promoting the census at county fairs.”

Other Americans became harder to reach due to wildfires and hurricanes. The Trump administration also interfered in the counting process, pursuing policies that some feared would make immigrants less likely to respond and cutting the operation short.

As they announced the new population figures, Census officials defended the accuracy of the counting process, saying the delayed door-to-door follow-ups allowed for more complete responses.

While the final numbers show a slower growth rate than what had been projected, affecting the final allocation of legislative seats, the population numbers for most states were still within 1% of the bureau’s estimates.

Under the new congressional districts, which will go into effect for the 2022 elections, each member of the House will represent an average of 761,000 residents.

The biggest population gains regionally were in the South and the West, with Southern states growing by 10.2% and Western states by 9.2%. The Northeast grew by 4.1%, and Midwestern states showed a 3.1% rise in population.

That followed trends underway since the 1940s, with 84 House seats shifting South and West during that time frame, Census officials said Monday.

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Maryland Will Keep 8 Seats in U.S. House, Census Officials Say