How Latest Census Data May Shift Balance Of Power In The US: ‘Most Voters Don’t Even Know About It’

Friday, August 13th 2021, 12:23 pm
By: CBS News

Newly-released data from the Census Bureau shows how America's population is changing dramatically. Demographers have been predicting it for years, but the new numbers show the United States is getting more multiracial even faster than expected.

For the first time ever recorded, there is a smaller percentage of White people – 61.6 percent, down from 75 percent in 2000.

The 2020 Census also found that more than 85 percent of us now live near a city.

With Democrats in control of Congress by the narrowest of margins, and midterms right around the corner, it could have huge implications for U.S. politics, notes CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe.

The nation's White population slid by 8.6 percent in the last decade, while the number of Latino and Asian Americans ballooned by 23 and 35.5 percent, respectively. And the number of African Americans increased by 5.6 percent.

The change is perhaps most apparent among the nation's youth; nearly half of Americans under 18 (47%) are now non-White or multiracial.

"The future of this nation really is Latino," said Arturo Vargas, the CEO of the nonpartisan National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO).

"Latinos accounted for over half of the U.S. population increase over the past decade," he said. "We need to make sure that the new electoral districts that are going to be drawn reflect these population changes, and specifically the increase of the Latino population, which we saw actually happening in America's largest cities."

Many advocates also hope that as states start redrawing boundaries, they curb the practice of gerrymandering – drawing twisted Congressional districts to benefit one party over the other.

An example of that is in Maryland, where voters in the fourth Congressional district live across the street from voters in the fifth Congressional district. Driving just three miles from that divided neighborhood, you can cross through three Democratic Congressional districts.

"The politician chooses their district and their voters, and if they don't like a group of their voters, they can carve them off and move them someplace else," said Michael Goff, Maryland president of Common Cause. "They can create their own safe district, what we call safe seats."

Common Cause pushes states to turn census numbers over to independent commissions to draw nonpartisan congressional maps.

"It's a once-in-ten-year process," said Goff. "Probably the most important political development of the next ten years is happening in the next few months, and most voters don't even know about it."

This all comes just ahead of the 2022 midterms — and the balance of power in dozens of state legislatures and Congress is at stake.

For example, Republicans now control more of the states that are set to pick up new congressional seats, meaning they could potentially gerrymander Democrats out of their slim majority in the House of Representatives.

First published on August 13, 2021 / 8:55 AM

© 2021 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.