VPR Header
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
VPR News
Explore our coverage of government and politics.

COMIC: How Your State Wins Or Loses Political Power Through The Census

Editor's note: A version of this comic was originally published in December 2020.

Hi! I'm NPR correspondent Hansi Lo Wang. Did you know the census helps determine how much power your state will have in Congress and the Electoral College for the next 10 years? [Image description: Hansi, depicted as a cat with glasses, waves hello.]
/  
That's because the Constitution requires a count of every person living in the U.S. once a decade. And state population totals from the census are used to reassign House seats and Electoral College votes — a process called congressional apportionment!
/  
Think of the process as a relay race. The runners are the commerce secretary (who oversees the Census Bureau), the president and Congress. The batons are state population counts and House reapportionment numbers. [Image description: Hansi puts on an exercise outfit as he talks.]
/  
The Census Bureau usually prepares the two batons. One contains the latest state population counts. The other contains each state's House reapportionment numbers and Electoral College votes, which are calculated from the state counts.
/  
The batons go from the commerce secretary to the president and then to Congress, which finishes by passing only the second baton to the governor in each state. State redistricting officials then wait for more census data to redraw voting districts.
/  
How this relay ends will set up how much representation your state gets for the coming decade. Then, after the next census, another relay begins. [Image description: Hansi looks at a 2030 finish line in the distance.]
/  

Edited by Acacia Squires and Nicole Werbeck, with copy-editing by Preeti Aroon

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Related Content