The Sun Belt and Far West will pick up 14 U.S. House seats at the expense of the Frost Belt as a result of the 1980 census, according to revised estimates released yesterday by the Census Bureau.
Only a few months ago, the Census Bureau estimated that the Northeast and Midwest would lose 11 seats to the South and West, but population is shifting more rapidly than was estimated.
The shift, based on 1979 population estimates, means that the Sun Belt and Far West, consisting of the 13 states of the Old South plus the West Coast and Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah, will edge closer to an absolute majority in the House with a total of 203 seats instead of the present 189.
Redistricting takes place in the House of Representatiges every 10 years to reflect population shifts revealed in the decennial census. The overall House remains at 435 seats, but some states lose while others gain.
According to the latest estimates, New York will lose four seats; Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania will lose two each; and Massachusetts, New Jersey, Michigan and South Dakota will lose one each, for a grand total of 14.
Among the gainers, Florida is expected to add three seats, California and Texas two each, and Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee Utah and Washington one each.
If the shifts predicted yesterday are borne out in the census this spring California, which already has the most House seats, will increase to 45. New York will stay second but farther behind than now, with 35 seats. Texas will be third with 26 and Pennsylvania fourth with 23.
Although some states won't gain or lose, they may realign the boundaries of existing districts so that all districts have roughly the same population -- around 500,000.
For example, Maryland will probably remain at eight congressional districts. But the First District (Eastern Shore) and Sixth District (Frederick, Howard, Carroll counties) have gained substantially in population since the last census in 1970, while the city of Balitmore's two districts have both lost substantially. So there may be a shift of boundaries to equalize population.
Virginia may also require some internal boundary shifts because of population growth in the Seventh District west of Prince William County, but its total will probably remain at 10 districts.
The battered cities of the Northeast and Midwest lost the most population.
New York's 21st District, the Bronx, has lost nearly 40 percent since 1970. nOf the 30 district with the biggest population loss, 23 were in big Frost Belt cities.