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Who gets seat 435?

Following the reapportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives using 1990 census data, Washington's congressional representation grew from eight to nine seats because of population growth during the 1980s. However, if a recent court decision is allowed to stand, Washington may lose the newly acquired seat to Massachusetts.

On Feb. 20, 1992, a three-judge panel ruled that "counting overseas federal employees in the 1990 census for the purpose of apportioning seats in the United States House of Representatives among the states was arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act." The court found that the inclusion of overseas personnel resulted in the shift of a congressional seat from Massachusetts to Washington and ordered the clerk of the U.S. House to recertify each state's congressional delegation using census figures excluding overseas employees. This resulted in the Bay State reclaiming its 11th seat.

Overall, the 1990 census included 922,819 federal employees and their families who were not residing in the United States. Most of those were in the military, and Pentagon records were used to assign them to states. Overseas employees had been included in only one previous census--1970, at the height of the Vietnam War.

Massachusetts argued that the formula for reapportioning seats in Congress violated the one person, one vote principle of the U.S. Constitution, but the court denied that claim. Montana also attacked the current formula for allocating seats and convinced a three-judge federal panel in Montana that the formula was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court wasn't convinced, however. It ruled (9-0) in March to uphold the current formula.

The high court agreed to hear an appeal of the Massachusetts ruling and scheduled oral arguments for April 21. Washington, Montana and Massachusetts have all crafted congressional plans including the disputed seat in the U.S. House, so it will be up to the Supreme Court to determine the winner. Congressman Tom Sawyer, chair of the census oversight committee, has said that Congress must revisit the issues surrounding the reapportionment formula before the next census.
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Title Annotation:1990 census gives Washington additional congressional representation
Publication:State Legislatures
Date:May 1, 1992
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