ALBANY — New York State, which will lose one congressional seat for the 2022 elections, came painfully close to not losing any — falling just 89 residents short of retaining all of its current 27 seats, the U.S. Census Bureau said Monday.
The Census unveiled the long-awaited reapportionment numbers based on the 2020 count of U.S. residents. It determines the allocation of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, along with the number of electoral votes in each state for presidential elections.
When the census counting began in 2020, New York officials had feared the state might lose two seats. In fact, it almost lost none.
In a news conference, Census Bureau officials revealed New York fell 89 residents shy of gaining the 435th congressional seat and keeping all of its current 27 House seats.
The lost seat went to Minnesota, allowing it to maintain its eight congressional districts.
No state has ever lost a seat by a smaller margin for at least 80 years. Census statistics dating to 1940 showing the next closest margin was in Oregon in 1970, when the state fell 231 residents shy of an extra congressional district.
New York lost the seat because it didn't grow as fast as other states.
New York's population has grown by 4.2% since 2010, and now totals 20.2 million, according to the Census.
New York is the fourth most populous state, behind Florida. The states each had 27 congressional seats for the past decade, but Florida will have 28.
Terri Ann Lowenthal, former congressional staffer on Census matters who now consults with stakeholder groups, said it was too simplistic to say New York needed just 89 more counted residents to save all its districts.
"You would have to assume that all other state population totals wouldn’t have changed in order for 89 people to have saved that seat. We’re talking about a complicated mathematical formula sensitive to small shifts in population," Lowenthal said.
"What we can say more accurately is that New York was very close to retaining its current number of congressional seats, and that this goes to show that every person counts in the census and every person matters when it comes to congressional apportionment," Lowenthal said.
In New York, the final Census count will trigger a scramble to reconfigure the election map and force some lawmakers to consider retiring or running for a new office — possibly even for governor or another statewide office.
It's also likely to that an upstate Republican district effectively will disappear, folded into another district.
Whereas New York City and Long Island had population gains, upstate experienced population declines in every region except for the Hudson Valley and the Capital Region, according to analysis by the New York Public Interest Group and the City University of New York.
Also, Democrats are the majority in the State Legislature and effectively will control how election maps are drawn.
One seat lawmakers and analysts have focused on is the Southern Tier district held by Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning), who announced he wouldn’t run for reelection.
"If we know Congressman Reed is retiring, it is not going to be a controversial to divide up the 23rd district," saids Dan Lamb, a Cornell University professor and former congressional aide.
Given the party’s slim majority in Washington, Democrats will redraw districts to try to "maximize" their chances of winning as many New York seats as possible, said Craig Burnett, a political scientist at Hofstra University.
"They have been waiting for this for a long time and I think they are going to maximize their opportunities," Burnett said. "Republicans are going to cry foul but Democrats are going to say ‘Too bad, you’re doing this in other states.’"
Burnett said it was no surprise that Reed — before a harassment accusation derailed his career — was one of several GOP members of Congress, including Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) and Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), considering running for governor.
Stefanik and Zeldin have said they are considering running for governor next year.
All of them could see their congressional districts changed, perhaps dramatically.
Those dominoes won’t start falling immediately. States won’t get the "granular level" population numbers to actually start drawing maps until September, officials have said.
Practically speaking, New York will have to have new maps approved by January to be ready for the June 2022 primaries.
With Olivia Winslow