Apportionment tomorrow likely means more Mormons in U. S. Congress

0aUSHouseDistricts_usOn December 21st the U.S. Census Bureau will release the initial results of the 2010 census and indicate which states will gain members of Congress and which states will lose members of Congress. From the estimates made by third parties, it seems likely that the number of Mormons in Congress will increase as a result.

Several companies, including Election Data Services, publish regular analysis’ of how the next apportionment will work. EDS’ most recent analysis (pdf), released October 15, indicates that Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington will each gain a seat in Congress, while Florida gains two and Texas four seats. Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania will all loose a seat, while the states of New York and Ohio will loose two seats. Of course these are estimates, not the official numbers. The actual apportionment will be released on December 21st.

If EDS’ numbers are correct or close, three of the states gaining a seat, Utah, Nevada and Arizona, have relatively large Mormon populations, and therefore, could conceivably elect, at some point, an additional Mormon to the U.S. Congress. My own expectation is that at least one, and possibly two, of the seats will be won by a Mormon politician in the next election or soon after.


The additional seat for Utah is, of course, the most likely to be won by a Mormon politician. With 68% of the state’s population thought to be members of the LDS Church, and with the entire Utah delegation made up of LDS Church members, that seems likely, even if every voter in the new district completely ignored the religion of the candidates for the new seat. But it should also be recognized that this is not certain, only likely.

Perhaps the more interesting question in Utah’s case is how likely the new district will be to elect a Democrat. During the next year the legislatures of each state that has gained or lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives will  have to set new boundaries for each House seat in the state. When this happens, state legislators almost always try to draw the district boundaries in a way that favors their party.

There are two general strategies that can be used to do this. First, the legislators can try to concentrate all of the other party’s base in one or a few districts, conceding those seats in order to secure the others for their party. The other strategy is to split up concentrations of the other party’s voters among multiple districts that are made up mostly of the supporters of the majority party. Of course, what will actually work in each case depends a lot on the state’s circumstances and demographics.

Since Utah’s legislature is heavily Republican (as well as heavily Mormon), they will likely try to favor Republicans. But, after Utah was given its 3rd seat in 1980, the Republican legislature tried to divide the state into 3 majority Republican districts. However, despite this, Democrats were able to win one of the three seats soon after the district was created and have had at least one ever since — which shows that these redistricting efforts don’t always work as planned.

[In case anyone gets the wrong idea, I should say that I don’t expect the legislators in Utah or anywhere else to redistrict to favor Mormon candidates — political party affiliation simply has more influence on politicians actions. Nor am I suggesting that any state should redistrict to favor any religion.]

I’m not familiar enough with the political demographics and politics of Utah (or any state) to guess at how the state legislature might divide the state into four districts. I assume that Democrat and LDS Church member Jim Matheson’s seat could be at risk, but I assume it is also possible that the legislature could leave him alone in order to assure that the other seats will be filled by Republicans. [I rather doubt the latter, but it may be possible.]

In any case, I believe we can assume that the new Utah seat will be won by a Mormon in the 2012 election and that Mormon will likely be a Republican.


Arizona’s additional seat is probably not likely to be filled by a Mormon, at least not initially. Just 5.8% of the state’s population is Mormon, concentrated in Phoenix’s southeastern suburbs and the eastern part of the state. In spite of this, the proportion of Arizona residents that are Mormon has declined slightly over the decade because the state is growing faster than the Church is in the state. The state is growing so fast that there is a small possibility that the state could get two seats, if growth is unexpectedly strong (or if enough immigrants ignored the anti-immigrant climate in Arizona and let themselves be counted).

Like Utah, Arizona’s legislature, lead by its new Senate President, LDS Church member Russell Pearce (yes, the one behind the immigration bill), is heavily Republican, so it is likely that the new seat will go to a Republican, and that the only LDS member of Arizona’s congressional delegation, Jeff Flake, is likely to have his district remain majority Republican. Flake’s district, which covers Phoenix’s southeastern suburbs and the largest concentration of Mormons in the state, will likely have to shrink slightly at least. Theoretically, this concentration of Mormons could be split into more than one district, if the 2/3rds Republican legislature decided to use its Republican concentration to increase how dependably the surrounding districts are to vote Republican. In that case, it is would be more likely that two Mormons from Arizona could win.


Like Arizona, Nevada’s additional seat may not be filled by a Mormon initially. 6.7% of the state is Mormon, and like in Arizona that concentration has decreased over the past decade – also because the state is growing so much faster than the Church is there.

However, unlike in Arizona, Nevada’s state legislature leans Democratic (26-16 in the Assembly, 11-10 in the Senate). Nevada’s current Mormon congressman, Dean Heller, represents the largest geographic portion and the most rural portion of the state. But since Heller is a Republican, he could be targeted by the state legislature during redistricting. However, the newly elected Republican in the urban 1st district would seem a more likely target, in my opinion.

What makes Nevada particularly interesting for Mormons is that, unlike Arizona, it has a long history of Mormon politicians in both parties, and particularly strong Mormons among the Democrats. Rory Reid, son of Senator Harry Reid, was unsuccessful in his bid for governor this year, but has enough of a following that a bid for a congressional seat is very possible. There are enough Mormons in Nevada politics that another Mormon in Nevada’s congressional delegation is very possible.

When the Census Bureau releases its calculations of which states get additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, I’ll add a comment here with the information.

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13 comments for “Apportionment tomorrow likely means more Mormons in U. S. Congress

  1. I should mention that when this apportionment last happened, 10 years ago, Utah missed getting a 4th seat by a very slim margin, one that could have been made up if LDS missionaries serving overseas had been counted. Ironically, the Census Bureau official at that time, Jay Waite, is LDS. Utah filed suit over the seat, but eventually lost.

    It is my understanding that the Census still doesn’t count LDS missionaries serving overseas.

  2. I think this could doom Matheson in the next election. I think even without the coming addition of a new district he would face a difficult election in 2012, this would just seem to make his position even more tenuous.

  3. What do you mean by vindicated? Utah wanted to play by its own set of rules last time around, after the fact.

  4. Kent,

    I am curious why you think that the Republicans in the Utah legislature are not likely to pursue the strategy of just letting one of the four districts be a Democratic district. As you point out, their previous gerrymandering strategy failed in the case of Matheson. It seems like it may be even more difficult to try to further divy up Salt Lake County (where most of the Democrats are) to attempt to make four Republican districts. E’s (#4) suggestion that Matheson’s position could be even more tenuous, is conceivable but, in my opinion, not likely. Matheson was elected despite the legislature’s previous gerrymandering attempt and, even in this year that favored Republican challengers, kept his seat by a fairly healthy margin. While they may not pursue this approach, it seems perfectly plausible that the legislature will not want to risk the election of another conservative Democrat, and so will attempt to create three very safe Republican districts and one district in which Democratic votes are concentrated.

  5. The Census Bureau’s excuses for not counting Americans living overseas are bogus.

    People who are employed by the armed forces, the State Department, or other US agencies, and their contractors, are getting paychecks from the government; there is no reason they can’t be counted. As for people employed by US organizations, who have US passports, they have to get and renew visas in their countries of residence, so there are official government records in those host nations of the exact identity of Americans living there, including Mormon missionaries. In Japan, foreigners who have long term residence (like missionaries)have to register for an in-country “passport”, called a gaijin tohroku shomeisho (foreigner registration certificate), and register it with the police each time they move to a new city. (The instructions in mine said “If you die, please return your certificate to our office,” perhaps an indication of belief in the afterlife.)

    Getting the data from most host nation governments should not be difficult, especially since the Census Bureau lays out lots of dough to collect data; they can afford to pay foreign countries to give them the census data on all Americans who are long term residents.

    US citizens living aborad who register to vote are in state databases, which can be shared with the Census Bureau under Privacy Act protections. The Bureau can use the addresses of registered voters, where they get ballots, to send our census questionaires.

    US companies and organizations with employees overseas can be required by a change in the law to report the name and address information of all those employees to the Bureau, again on a Privacy Act basis.

    There there is the fact that most people in the modern world communicate via the Internet. There is no reason that US citizens living abroad could not go to a Census Bureau web page and sign in, using their passport data to confirm their identity, and file information for the census, including their home state for purposes of the congressional population count, as a matter of home state pride.

    These simple methods using existing data can accurately count millions of Americans living overseas, who will be coming back to the US someday and deserve to be represented proportionately in Congress.

    When people who are illegal immigrants are counted for population purposes, at great trouble and expense, why should the Census Bureau refuse to count bona fide US citizens who retain their domicile (permanent residence for voting purposes) in the US? Because of the passport and visa system, the records for US citizens overseas are more current than many domestic address records.

  6. M. Buxton (7), perhaps my statement was too strong. I’m not at all trying to suggest that I know what they will do. My assmption was made only knowing that Republicans in Utah are quite stridently conservative (I assume this will push them to go for all four seats) and thinking that the number of core Democrats in the state is quite small and concentrated (and therefore easily split among the four districts).

    I don’t have any idea whether this is possible or not.

    You are certainly correct that if they do not carve out a majority Democrat district, they could end up inadvertently making it possible for Utah to elect 2 or more Democrats.

  7. Raymond (8), I agree that those are the arguments that Utah used, and that many of us are still using. Not being a professional statistician, I can’t say that I understand the weaknesses, if any, in the argument (with the possible exception of the completeness argument: if the procedures used won’t count American’s abroad in a way that covers the groups abroad completely and without bias, the method could be challenged as unfair).

    I have a memory of reading after the last census that certain groups of U.S. emoployees are counted (armed forces? diplomats?). Am I wrong?

  8. One fascinating aspect of the Utah situation is what the legislature does with the small, but quite concentrated, Democratic population in Salt Lake. You are right that if the legislature tries to split it up into more than one district it could lead to the inadvertent (from the legislature’s point of view) election of two conservative Democrats. However, the alternative strategy of putting all of the Salt Lake Democrats in one district runs another risk, which is the election of a more liberal Democrat. My understanding of Utah political scuttlebut is that Matheson has always seen the risk of a challenge in the Democratic primary from the left as a greater threat than a conservative Republican in the general election. I suspect that many conservative leaning Utahans would prefer a Blue Dog like Matheson to a Salt Lake bomb-thrower (in the context of Utah politics) like Rocky Anderson (who would probably love to run for a congressional seat consisting primarily of Salt Lake City).

  9. While they may not pursue this approach, it seems perfectly plausible that the legislature will not want to risk the election of another conservative Democrat, and so will attempt to create three very safe Republican districts and one district in which Democratic votes are concentrated.

    Geography allowing, I don’t think that is likely at all. Matheson is an excellent fit for the state, and he would be tough to beat in nearly any district that included a significant portion of Salt Lake County.

    Following prior precedent, I think the state legislature is likely to attempt to create four evenly balanced districts, with the hopes that all four might turn GOP sometime during the decade. Making safe seats for Democrats just isn’t in the cards. Although if that is what you wanted to do, you would probably put as much of the northern half of Salt Lake County as possible into that district, which would be very small by comparison with the others.

    I don’t think Rocky Anderson is electable at the state or congressional level in Utah, nor do I think that anyone much to the left of Matheson is going to beat him in a primary, no matter how you draw the boundaries. If someone did, he or she almost certainly couldn’t get elected. Not anymore. I don’t think Salt Lake County is liberal enough to elect a liberal Democrat to Congress. Conservative Democrats seem hard to come by though, which is bad news for the Democratic party in the state.

  10. I predict on the basis of geography and the desire for four evenly balanced districts that the new congressional district will include Davis County, part of Salt Lake County, and Tooele County. Both the Second and Third District will lose some part of Salt Lake County that they presently cover.

    If I were to guess, the part of Salt Lake County that the Second District will lose will come from the southeastern part of county, and will end up in the Third District. The western half of Salt Lake County that is currently part of the Third District seems likely to end up in the new fourth district with Davis County and Tooele County.

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