Political Power at Stake in Census Count

Once the Census Bureau finishes counting everyone in America, then the process really gets interesting to politicians and fixers in all 50 states.

The results determine how many seats each state is allotted in the House. In 2002, 12 seats shifted across 18 states, with Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arizona each gaining two seats; New York and Pennsylvania each losing two seats, and several others losing or picking up one seat.

Census Bureau population estimates from last summer show Texas poised again to be the big winner.

"When you look at the size of Texas and the likelihood that Texas will gain three to four new seats in Congress after this census, you get an idea that we are approaching another pivotal moment in American political history," Chris Stirewalt, political editor at the Washington Examiner.

LIVESHOTS: The Future of the Census

After states learn how many seats they'll have, their state legislatures begin re-drawing the boundaries of their remaining or enlarged number of congressional districts. And the party in control of a given state legislature usually redraws those districts -- sometimes block by block -- in a way that improves the party's chances of winning those districts.

"And that will produce shifts of political power within states," Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. 

Which is why some top party strategists have begun descending on state capitals, looking to win or preserve their party's control of the statehouse.

An added wrinkle is that early next year, the Census Bureau will for the first time give the states timely, detailed data on prison populations.

Because many prisons sit in rural areas but house large numbers of urban inmates, the data will likely cause disputes in states across the nation.

"They can make decisions about whether they count them in the rural areas or move them to some other area or exclude them from redistricting," Groves said. "We won't have any part of that." 

That cites in general should get their due is not lost on the Obama White House.

"And if we don't fill out the forms, if we don't respond, if we are not counted, then in this nation's eyes, we don't count," said Adolfo Carrion, White House director of urban affairs.

One state that will not suffer from depopulation as bad as expected is Louisiana. Census figures show the Pelican State has added nearly 41,000 residents since the last census, despite a sharp drop in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show "The Foxhole." His latest book is "A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the Twentieth Century" (Crown Forum, October 4, 2016).