If Florida gains Congressional seats, where would they go?

Osceola County and Southwest Florida have seen population booms since 2010.
Published April 4, 2019|Updated April 4, 2019

Florida is about to win. And Central and Southwest Florida might win even more.

Less than a year out from the 2020 U.S. Census, analysts project the state to gain two additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives (and, correspondingly, the electoral college). So while states like New York and Ohio continue to see their population and corresponding congressional representation dwindle, Florida, Arizona and Texas are looking for gains.

But the apportionment set by the federal government (due by the end of 2020) is only the beginning of the next step: redistricting.

Florida’s Legislature is charged with drawing the new maps. That effort (which ultimately took more than two years after last decade’s count) will depend on partisan demographics and political strategy. But at the heart of it, supposedly, is where people live. All Congressional districts are supposed to be “as nearly equal in population as practicable.” That means we should expect general areas with relatively more people than 10 years ago to get more representation.

Geographically, we’re talking Central and Southwest Florida. Population total trends show, since 2010, Central Florida has seen less of a boom and more of an explosion.

In particular, Florida’s Ninth district (including Kissimmee and Winter Haven) has become a behemoth.

As redistricting looms, population in one Florida Congressional District has exploded

If the population in each district in Florida were the same, each would hold about 777,200 people, as of 2017(the most recent American Community Survey data available). The Ninth was home to 868,945 people that year, 12 percent more than expected.

Those 91,000 extra people (about the population of Miami Beach) get no extra representation in Congress.

In national terms, it’s the third-most bloated district in all of Congress, only behind two Texas suburbs. (That’s within states, at least; Montana might argue its single at-large district, now representing more than a million, would deserve that title.)

The next-largest population districts are the 10th (in neighboring Orlando), 16th (Sarasota), 19th (Naples).

Relative population by Congressional district, 2017

Nothing is anywhere near certain. It’s still a year before the Census and two years before Florida gets the data it uses to redistrict -- and the American Community Survey data is already more than a year old.

What comes next will be an entirely different map. But when the dust is settled, every new district’s population will be the same size, meaning the districts where residents lose out now (in Central and Southwest Florida) will regain equal representation in Congress, momentarily.