South Carolina's chances of gaining an extra seat in Congress in 2010 and the added clout that comes with it continued to increase with the release of new census projections this week, according to one analyst's report.
Seats in Congress are assigned based on population, using a famously complex formula that hands out Congress members like a game of duck-duck-goose.
South Carolina has had six U.S. House members since 1930, but its recent rapid growth puts it in line for a seventh, according to a report released Monday by Election Data Services.
"That's great news for South Carolina," said Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce chief executive Brad Dean. "From the state's perspective, it has a tremendous upside and no downside."
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Some federal funding formulas are based on congressional seats rather than actual population figures, meaning more federal money for building projects could flow into South Carolina with the addition of a new congressional district. The new representative also could expand the state's influence on important congressional committees.
If the census were taken now, South Carolina would not gain a seat based on its 2008 estimate of 4,480,000 residents, the Election Data Services report states. Over the next two years, however, the state's population is expected to grow by between 130,000 and 160,000.
As larger states lose population in the same time frame, South Carolina's chances of making the cut for a seventh congressional seat increase dramatically. Election Data Services compiles estimates based on five different sets of growth trends, and South Carolina now gains a seat in 2010 in all of them.
Reports in previous years have shown South Carolina trending toward gaining a seat, but the 2008 numbers showed faster-than-expected growth, increasing chances even more.
U.S. Rep. Henry Brown's coastal 1st Congressional District, with population centers in Charleston and Horry County, is one of the most populous in the country with more than 800,000 people. It would surely shrink in a reapportionment. The state Legislature redraws the lines, and the fight is always extremely political.
"Given the Grand Strand's growing population, our region figures prominently in any new alignment," Dean said. "That will only enhance the position of the Grand Strand for federal funding and other programs."
North Carolina sits right on the margin for gaining a seat as well. In the shortest- and longest-term projections, it remains at 13 seats, but mid-range growth patterns would give it a 14th seat.
The report projects about a dozen seats moving around the country after the 2010 Census, following the general population shift away from the Northeast and Great Lakes and toward the South and Southwest. Ohio is slated to lose two seats, while New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois and others all lose one. Texas gains four and Arizona gains two, while Nevada, Utah, Georgia and others all gain one.
Louisiana, though it has nearly recovered the population lost after Hurricane Katrina, is likely to lose a seat.