Posted on April 28, 2021 by Amanda Cerreto

This article originally appeared in The Texas Standard by David Brown, Jill Ament & Shelly Brisbin .

According to newly released census data, Texas gained about four million residents in the past decade. This population growth means the state will gain two congressional seats, bringing its total to 38. Texas will be a bigger player in the Electoral College, too, going from 38 to 40 votes.

Rogelio Saénz is a demography professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He told Texas Standard that the data released Monday includes the final national and state population counts, but not the details. Saénz says more data will be released in September, which will be used by states to draw new political districts. The current numbers, which determine how many congressional representatives each state will have, are unlikely to change, he says.

"I think here it's going to show the increasing strength of Texas in national politics," Saénz said.

The state had been expected by many to gain three seats in Congress. A census undercount could explain the discrepancy.

"Perhaps there was a significant portion of undercounting that gave away that seat," Saénz said. “I can't help but think of Gov. Abbott not investing money to try to get the count up and the count out, here in Texas.”

Saénz says other factors that could have led to fewer Texans showing up in the census are the pandemic's impact on census-taking efforts, and the decline in fertility among all populations, including Latinos. Migration from Mexico has also been on the decline, he says.

When the remaining census data is released later this year, the Legislature can begin drawing new maps for state and federal offices. Saénz says that despite calls for a nonpartisan redistricting process, it's likely that Republicans, who control the Legislature and the governor's office, will draw the maps that will determine the shape of the state's political districts during the next 10 years.

— Amanda Cerreto