Theories about what area of upstate New York will lose representation in Congress are purely speculative, officials said Tuesday, after initial U.S. Census data show greater population loss upstate, causing a hum about how elective districts will be redrawn for draft maps to be released next month.
New York will lose one seat in the state’s congressional delegation, bringing the total to 26 seats in the House of Representatives. Upstate New York is expected to sustain the loss based on population shifts identified in the most recent Census data, according to analysis Tuesday from the New York Public Interest Research Group.
“It’s probably a safe bet that upstate outside the Hudson Valley is going to lose political clout,” NYPIRG Executive Director Blair Horner said Tuesday. “Demography is destiny. They have fewer people, and if you believe in representative democracy, that should be the case that areas with more population growth have an advantage.”
Upstate New York — which includes all areas north of Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, according to NYPIRG — is also poised to lose at least one state Senate seat with the population shifts. The Legislature’s 150 Assembly districts are not expected to be dramatically impacted.
More than half of the state saw modest population losses, or saw decline in 39 of New York’s 62 counties, amassing to a total net loss of more than 5,000 residents throughout upstate from 2010 to 2020.
The population data reflect a continuing shift from upstate to downstate in terms of political power as the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission analyzes data to develop the new Congressional, Senate and Assembly political boundaries reflecting changes in the population.
Upstate New York could lose one state Senate seat, assuming mapmakers do not increase the number of Senate districts permitted under the state Constitution.
“That seat could be placed in New York City,” according to NYPIRG’s analysis.
The group’s analysis assumes mapmakers will develop election districts with mainly equal populations.
Mapmakers can draw state Senate districts with populations within a 10% range between the smallest and largest populations.
It’s a common trend: For years, upstate New York’s population has stagnated while the New York City area, its suburbs and the Hudson Valley area continue to swell.
The state’s 10 downstate counties grew a 828,352 additional residents combined in the lower Hudson Valley, including Orange, Rockland and Westchester counties; New York, Richmond, Bronx, Queens and Kings in New York City; and Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island.
New York City gained 628,682 New Yorkers in the last decade, according to census data.
“The trend is the same,” Horner said. “The upstate population outside of the Hudson Valley stagnates or declines and political power shifts south.”
The census population breakdown, typically released in April, but delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has inspired a number of impulsive assumptions about how the state’s congressional and legislative seats may be redrawn, or eliminated.
The 10-member commission will finalize criteria with independent line consultants in the coming weeks before draft maps are released by Sept. 15
“For the first time in the history of New York state, an independent commission will be responsible for drawing the state and federal election district lines,” Redistricting Commission co-executive directors Doug Breakell and Karen Blatt said in a joint statement last week. “We just completed our listening tour learning about the many diverse communities that make New York State what it is today. The commission’s next steps are to work with our consultants to produce a draft redistricting plan to be released to the public by Sept. 15. We will then begin our constitutionally required public hearings later in the fall to receive feedback.
“Any speculation on the district lines for Congress and the state Legislature in the initial draft are just that.”
Counsel will first complete a Voting Rights Act analysis before proceeding with drawing new district lines.
NYPIRG’s analysis of where the state’s congressional and legislative districts will change is solely based on population growth and decline.
Upstate population growth is fueled by the Hudson Valley region, for example, which could determine which area of upstate will lose representation.
Analysis at this point, officials added, is impulsive speculation that may not come to fruition, depending on what the commission decides.
The number of counties that saw population declines from 2010 to 2020 continues to rise dramatically. The most recent census data show 1,640 U.S. counties suffered population losses, compared with 1,082 counties that saw losses from 2000 to 2010.
About 86.3% of 331 million Americans, or 285.6 million people, live in metropolitan areas, according to 2020 Census data, up from 84.3% of the 282 million Americans counted in the 2000 Census.
Urban areas increased nearly 48 million people, compared to growth of 1.1 million people in rural areas, according to census analysis from Protect the Adirondacks.
In the last 20 years, for every 1 person that decided to move to, or get born in, a rural area in the U.S., 48 others made the opposite choice and aimed for life in a metropolitan area.
New York gained population at a rate of 4.2% from 2010 to 2020, topping 20 million residents for the first time in the state’s history. In 2020, New York totaled 20,201,249 residents, up from 19,378,102 in 2010 — a gain of 823,147 new residents.
New York is one of seven states to lose representation in Congress with the 2020 census data.
If New York had counted 89 more residents, it would not have lost a seat.
NYPIRG’s analysis of demographic data was compiled by the Center for Urban Research at The Graduate Center/CUNY, which documents possible changes in state Senate and Congressional representation.