Tuesday, December 21, 2010

EXTRA: Confirming incredibly obvious, Illinois not growing fast enough

A fact that has been known for nearly a decade became official on Tuesday – Illinois’ population is such that the state’s delegation in Congress is going to shrink by one person.

Growth in the Chicago area (mostly suburban) may have caused the state’s overall population to increase (3.3 percent) slightly. But those southwestern states have larger percentage population hikes. Since the number of members of Congress doesn’t change, it means that one of our representatives is now going to have to go to one of those states – perhaps Texas, which had enough growth to justify increasing its delegation by 4 members.

AT THIS RATE, if nothing else changes, those southwestern (and southern) states could catch Illinois in about a century.

Note the mocking tone. We in Illinois are still one of the largest population states in the United States. We will still have a significant Congressional delegation, which translates into a sizable group in the Electoral College. Illinois is still a political heavy-weight.

Nothing is going to radically change between yesterday and today, just because of the figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau that are based off the information provided by last spring’s official population count.

We won’t get the actual total of how many people lived in this municipality/state until some time in February. But those numbers gathered earlier this year are starting to pay off.

FOR THE RECORD, each of those members of Congress from Illinois for the upcoming decade will be representing districts of about 714,588 people – up significantly from 1910 when Illinois had 27 members of the House of Representatives, each of whom had an average of 208,837 people to represent.

I cite that year because it was the last time that Illinois had a population boost significant enough to warrant more members of Congress. Ever since, it has been a loss of a member or two each decade (with the exception of a couple of decades, such as the 1970s, when there was no gain or loss).

So like I already wrote, people have been expecting this one-member loss for years – even though our state’s population is at an all-time high of 12.83 million people (compared to 1910 when we had 5.64 million). Although there is some indication that had Illinois’ population grown by just another 76,000 people (about one more good-sized suburban town), it could have kept its 19th member of the House of Representatives.

So now that we have this data, the political people who will wind up putting together the electoral maps that set legislative and congressional district boundaries can start to ponder which of them will soon be out of office on account of population shifts.

THEY WILL HAVE to wait a bit longer for the data concerning ethnic and racial trends that get used in putting together some of our state’s districts (the ones that ensure some sense of minority representation).

Then, we will be able to get into the serious rhetoric about which central Illinois Congressman of the GOP ilk is about to lose his seat, and which city-based official will lose out – if officials proceed (not a guaranteed action) with the likely demographics and try to bolster Latino congressional representation from Illinois.

But we are reaching the day of reckoning for the political map-makers, intense enough that Illinois Republican Party chairman Pat Brady is already making the pompous pronouncements that Democrats had better be fair in drawing Illinois’ political boundaries.

I say “pompous” because I know if Brady and his ideological ilk had a say in the map-making process, the last thing they’d be concerned about is how “heavy-handed” they were being toward their partisan opposition.


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