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Front Page » December 23, 2010 » Carbon County News » Utah gets 4th seat in US House
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Utah gets 4th seat in US House

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When Utah became a state in 1896, it was small enough in population that it only received one seat in the United States House of Representatives. In that first election Democrat William H. King defeated Republican Lafayette Holbrook for that office. That original seat now is bounded by population lines in northern Utah. Republican Rob Bishop is the current Congressman in that slot.

In 1912 Utah was provided a second Congressional seat because of further population growth. It was won during the following election by a non-Mormon Republican named Jacob Johnson, a resident of Spring City in Sanpete County. He was victorious over Democrat Mathonihah Thomas. That seat now encompasses Carbon County and the present Congressman in the Second District is Democrat Jim Matheson.

It took 60 more years before Utah could get a third Congressional seat. In 1982 Utah was given that third seat based on an increased population as determined by the United States Census. In the first election for that seat Brigham Young University professor and Republican Howard C. Nielson won the election. Today that seat is held by Republican Jason Chafetz.

On Tuesday it was announced that Utah will finally get a fourth seat after losing out on it after the final determination by the 2000 Census showed the state was only a few hundred people short of getting another slot in Congress.

It has been long in coming and how it will be handled will be interesting.

The U.S. resident population includes the total number of people in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The resident population of the United States on April 1, 2010, was 308,745,538, an increase of 9.7 percent over the 281,421,906 counted during the 2000 Census.The most populous state was California (37,253,956); the least populous, Wyoming (563,626). The state that gained the most numerically since the 2000 Census was Texas (up 4,293,741 to 25,145,561) and the state that gained the most as a percentage of its 2000 Census count was Nevada (up 35.1 percent to 2,700,551).

Regionally, the South and the West picked up the bulk of the population increase, 14,318,924 and 8,747,621, respectively. But the Northeast and the Midwest also grew: 1,722,862 and 2,534,225.

Utah was one of the growth states not as much with pure numbers, but because of its smaller population based on percentage (23.8 percent since the 2000 census). With the present census Texas will gain four seats in congress while Florida will gain two. Utah picks up a seat along with Nevada, Arizona, Washington, South Carolina and Georgia.

The process of setting up new seats in the states is called apportionment. It has always been a controversial subject when it has to be done and this new fourth seat added to Utah will be no different.

Some people think that when a state reaches a certain population figure, they automatically get another seat in the house of representatives (the Constitution only allows two senators per state as a balance for smaller states that don't hold as many House seats). But while Congress has adjusted the number of seats in the House over the years, at the present time the number can't surpass 435 total seats (that was set in 1913, almost 100 years ago). Originally the Constitution set the number of representatives at 65 from 1787 until the first Census of 1790, when it was increased to 105 members. That means as the country grows, every 10 years each representative is representing more and more people. And the process of how the lines in the districts are drawn within states varies from state to state.

The first decennial census was conducted in 1790 and has been taken every 10 years as mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Since the first census, conducted by Thomas Jefferson, the decennial count has been the basis for our representative form of government as envisioned by our nation's Founding Fathers. In 1790, each member of the House of Representatives represented about 34,000 residents. Today, the House has more than quadrupled in size, and each member represents about 19 times as many constituents. In 2000, each member of the House of Representatives represented a population of about 647,000.

The apportionment population consists of the resident population of the 50 states, plus the overseas military and federal civilian employees and their dependents living with them who could be allocated to a state. The populations of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are excluded from the apportionment population because they do not have voting seats in the U. S. House of Representatives.

The apportionment totals are calculated by a congressionally-defined formula in accordance with Title 2 of the U.S. Code.

But within the states there are different ways to do reapportionment. In many states the residing state legislature determines what the lines of reapportionment will be. In some states what is called an independent commission sets the lines and the legislature approves it. In Utah the legislature does it.

The last time the lines were redrawn on Congressional seats in Utah was in 2000 and it was done by a largely Republican legislature. This time the legislature that will do it will be even more Republican.

At the time claims of gerrymandering were leveled at the legislature, with what appeared to some to be drawing lines that would work against Matheson. At the same time the state was also reapportioning their legislative house seats as well, because it also depends on the Census population figures for that as well.

With a fourth seat, what will happen will be interesting. What it will do to the present seats and how will it affect the various groups that are opposed to each other in the state is a big question. Concerns about rural vs. urban, conservative vs. progressive and certainly Republican vs. Democrat will be big issues in the coming year as officials ready the state for the election that will determine the Fourth Congressional District's first Congressperson in the 2012 election.

The change in the number of congressional seats from the state will also up the number of votes from five to six in the electoral college during presidential elections.

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December 23, 2010
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