By Sean WhaleyNevada News Bureau: Despite a dramatic slowdown in Nevada’s population growth, and even some net out-migration for the first time in recent memory, the U.S. Census Bureau report today shows the state will gain a fourth congressional seat in 2013.
Nevada led the nation in the percentage increase in its population since the 2000 census at 35.1 percent to 2,700,551, even with some population loss during the current economic slowdown.
It will be the third new seat added in the past four census counts. Nevada added its second seat in 1983 and its third in 2003.
Now the Nevada Legislature will have to redraw the district boundaries to generate four congressional seats instead of three. This effort, and the redrawing of the legislative boundaries, will be a major issue for lawmakers in the 2011 session.
Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval said the gain of a seat in congress will be critically important to addressing the issues facing Nevada, particularly those at the federal level, and he asked for a fair redistricting process in the 2011 session.
“As the Legislature looks to take up reapportionment during the upcoming session, it is my hope the process will proceed in an orderly manner on behalf of the voters and not politics,” he said. “I plan to work with both the Assembly and the Senate to ensure the process is fair and balanced.”
Rep. Dean Heller, R-NV, who represents the state’s 2nd Congressional District, welcomed the news from the Census Bureau.
“After much speculation, I am pleased Nevada will be receiving an additional congressional seat,” he said. “The Nevada delegation works closely together on issues important to our state and adding another voice to the congressional delegation will greatly benefit the state of Nevada.”
Secretary of State Ross Miller today said it was the strong response by Nevada residents that helped ensure the creation of Nevada’s fourth seat.
According to the census data, Nevada’s total 2010 population is 2,700,551, up 35.1 percent from 2000. The rate of growth in the last decade was just more than half of the 66.3 percent rate of population growth in Nevada from 1990 to 2000.
“The 2010 Census turned out to be a great civics lesson in Nevada,” said Miller, who served as chairman of the Nevada Complete Count Committee. “The outcome could have been very different had just a few more Nevadans neglected to fill out their census forms.”
For many years following the 2000 Census, as the population grew faster in Nevada than in any other state, most observers assumed that Nevada would gain another seat in Congress in 2010. But the demographics changed in 2007 as Nevada suffered some of the worst fallout of the economic recession. The state lost thousands of jobs and, as a result, actually lost population for the first time in decades. The state demographer estimates the state lost nearly 100,000 residents in the last two years, about a 5 percent decline since 2000.
“This turned out to be a closer call than we thought just a couple of years ago,” Miller said. “The thousands of people across the state who took a few minutes to send in their forms made the 2010 Census a success story in Nevada.”
Beginning in 2012, the population of Nevada’s four congressional districts will be 677,358, up 10,000 from 2000. Nationwide, the average congressional district will have a population of 710,767.
The census count is also used to determine how federal funding for a number of projects and services is apportioned to the states. Gov. Jim Gibbons’ SAGE Commission estimates that for every person counted, the state will receive $917 in federal funds for school lunch programs, family support programs, senior centers, job training, and new construction for projects from highways to hospitals.
The U.S. Census Bureau said this year’s count showed the national population as of April 1 was 308,745,538, an increase of 9.7 percent over the 2000 U.S. resident population of 281,421,906.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Acting Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and Census Bureau Director Robert Groves unveiled the official counts at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
“A big thanks to the American public for its overwhelming response to the 2010 Census,” Locke said. “The result was a successful count that came in on time and well under budget, with a final 2010 Census savings of $1.87 billion.”
The most populous state was California (37,253,956); the least populous, Wyoming (563,626). The state that gained the most numerically since the 2000 Census was Texas (up 4,293,741 to 25,145,561) and the state that gained the most as a percentage of its 2000 Census count was Nevada (up 35.1% to 2,700,551).
Beginning in February and wrapping up by March 31, 2011, the Census Bureau will release demographic data to the states on a rolling basis so state governments can start the redistricting process.
Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution calls for a census of the nation’s population every 10 years to apportion the House seats among the states. The 2010 Census is the 23rd census in U.S. history.