New census numbers released Tuesday show Michigan as the only state to lose population since the last survey a decade ago. As a result, Michigan will lose at least one congressional seat, going from 15 to 14.
WWJ spoke with Inside Michigan Politics’s Bill Ballenger, who said that lost seat will come from the here in Southeast Michigan.
“You’ve got the whole state shrinking and we’re gonna lose a seat. The impact is going to be felt more prominently in the Metro Detroit area. Whether it’s going to be Levin and Peters’ seats being combined by the Republicans — that’s what they’d try and do. Or, whether it might be Dingle or Conyers, we don’t know,” Ballenger said.
“There is no obvious set formula for what map might emerge,” he said.
That map will be drawn by the Republicans, who will control the state House, state Senate and Governor’s office.
Population expert Kurt Metzger, who runs Data Driven Detroit, says Michigan’s head count has been stagnant over the past decade. But who’s gaining at Michigan’s expense?
“Primarily the states in the south and the west, and there’s no doubt that we’re going to lose at least one Congressional seat,” Metzger told WWJ Newsradio 950.
“It’s just been a bad decade for the industrial Midwest as a whole, and Michigan has borne the brunt of it,” he said. “It illustrates just how much the economy is tied to population growth.”
This lost seat means the GOP will have the upper hand in fashioning a district map favorable to its candidates. A likely scenario would merge two majority-Democratic seats in southeastern Michigan, forcing the incumbents to run against each other or retire.
Still, Republicans will have to proceed cautiously to avoid running afoul of laws meant to prevent blatant gerrymandering and discrimination against minority voters, said Ed Sarpolus, a Lansing political strategist.
For that reason, they probably will preserve the two majority-black districts in the Detroit area held by veteran Rep. John Conyers and incoming freshman Rep. Hansen Clarke, making Democrats in nearby districts such as Reps. Sander Levin and Gary Peters more vulnerable, Sarpolus said.
“There’s not too much the Republicans can do to improve on their situation because it’s so good already,” said Paul Abramson, a political science professor at Michigan State University.
Regardless of which candidates or party fares better after the census, the state as a whole figures to lose.
Dropping another seat will reduce Michigan’s strength in Congress, a problem that may be partially offset by the presence of Michigan lawmakers in key positions. Rep. Fred Upton assumes the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee, while fellow Republican Rep. Dave Camp will head the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and Levin will be ranking Democrat on that panel.
Census numbers also are used to allocate federal funding for a wide variety of programs, from highway construction to education and health care for the needy. As Michigan loses ground to other states in the number of residents, its share of the pie will shrink.
“We want to get every dime we can for a state like Michigan that’s so economically challenged,” Weiss said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.