Massachusetts Could Gain A Seat in Congress — If Census Can Find All the People Living Here

Printed from:

Massachusetts could possibly get a 10th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in five years if the next federal census finds enough residents, Secretary of State William Galvin said.

“I think the census in 2020 is going to be a defining matter for our state. We have been in a sort of nip-and-tuck with Washington state for representation. I don’t want to hold out hope that we’re going to get a congressional seat back. But when you look at the raw numbers, it’s damn close,” Galvin told the Joint Ways and Means Committee of the Massachusetts Legislature on Friday.

The number of representatives each state gets in the House depends on population relative to other states. The federal census, taken every 10 years, is used to determine how many congressional districts each state gets.

At about 6.8 million residents, the nine congressional districts in Massachusetts average about 755,000 people apiece. Washington state’s population is currently a little more than 7 million. It has 10 representatives.

The new count of representatives takes effect in the election cycles after the census is completed. So the 2020 census numbers will take effect in the November 2022 general election, for members of Congress taking office in January 2023.

Massachusetts has steadily lost House districts during the last 100 years, from a high of 16 in the early part of the 1900s down to nine currently.

Galvin said he is particularly concerned about immigrants — both illegal and legal — avoiding census takers in 2020.

“Given the current climate, counting immigrants, whether they’re documented or undocumented, is going to be very challenging,” Galvin said.

Galvin emphasized that federal funding for government programs is also influenced by how many people the federal census says that cities and states have.

“We have the people. The key is to count the people so that we get credit for them. Not just for political purposes,” he said.

Galvin is seeking an additional $350,000 for his budget to help prepare for the federal census. A meeting to prepare for the census is scheduled to take place in Sturbridge later this month.