Apportionment and the US Census

Fairly Representing Each States in Congress

Members of the US House of Representative voting
US House of Representatives Votes To Elect A New Speaker. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Apportionment is the process of fairly dividing the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states based on population counts from the decennial U.S. census.

Who Came Up With the Apportionment Process?

While looking for a way to fairly distribute the cost of the Revolutionary War among the states, the Founding Fathers also wanted to create a truly representative government by using each state's population to determine its number of members in the House of Representatives.

Based on the first census in 1790, apportionment was their way of accomplishing both.

The 1790 census counted 4 million Americans. Based on that count, the total number of members elected to the House of Representatives grew from the original 65 to 106. The current House membership of 435 was set by Congress in 1911, based on the 1910 census.

How is Appropriation Calculated?

The exact formula used for apportionment was created by mathematicians and politicians and adopted by Congress in 1941 as the "Equal Proportions" formula (Title 2, Section 2a, U. S. Code). First, each state is assigned one seat. Then, the remaining 385 seats are distributed using a formula that computes "priority values" based on each state's apportionment population.

Who is Included in the Apportionment Population Count?

The apportionment calculation is based on the total resident population (citizen and noncitizen) of the 50 states.

The apportionment population also includes U.S. Armed Forces personnel and federal civilian employees stationed outside the United States (and their dependents living with them) who can be allocated, based on administrative records, back to a home state.

Are Children Under 18 Included?

Yes. Being registered to vote or voting is not a requirement to be included in the apportionment population counts.

Who is NOT Included in the Apportionment Population Count?

The populations of the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Island Areas are excluded from the apportionment population because they do not have voting seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

What is the Legal Mandate for Apportionment?

Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution mandates that an apportionment of representatives among the states be carried out each 10-year period.

When are Appropriation Counts Reported?
 

To the President

Title 13, U.S. Code, requires that the apportionment population counts for each state be delivered to the President within nine months of the official date of the census.

To Congress

According to Title 2, U.S. Code, within one week of the opening of the next session of Congress in the new year, the president must report to the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives the apportionment population counts for each state and the number of representatives to which each state is entitled.

To the States

According to Title 2, U.S. Code, within 15 days of receiving the apportionment population counts from the president, the Clerk of the House of Representatives must inform each state governor of the number of representatives to which that state is entitled.

About Redistricting - Apportionment is just part of the fair representation equation. Redistricting is the process of revising the geographic boundaries within a state from which people elect their representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislature, county or city council, school board, etc. 

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Longley, Robert. "Apportionment and the US Census." ThoughtCo, Jul. 22, 2016, thoughtco.com/apportionment-and-the-us-census-3320967. Longley, Robert. (2016, July 22). Apportionment and the US Census. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/apportionment-and-the-us-census-3320967 Longley, Robert. "Apportionment and the US Census." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/apportionment-and-the-us-census-3320967 (accessed November 20, 2017).