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Oregon's steady growth lands it an additional US House seat

U.S. Census Bureau figures show the state’s population expanded over the past decade enough to give it an additional congressional district.
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US Capitol building and dome, home of the US Congress, in Washington, DC on Capitol Hill

PORTLAND, Ore. — Steady population growth, driven by newcomers from other states, is giving Oregon greater national political clout. 

U.S. Census Bureau figures released Monday show the state’s population expanded over the past decade enough to give it an additional congressional district for the first time in 40 years.

Census numbers show Oregon grew from 3,848,606 residents in 2010 to 4,241,500 in 2020.

The U.S. population in 2020 was 331,449,281 which is an increase of 7.4% over 2010 but one of the two smallest percentage gains since the Census Bureau began tracking such things. 

Political analyst Len Bergstein said you can bet more than a couple of politicians in Oregon are thinking about how they could get themselves elected to the new district. 

"There are people right now in boiler rooms with green-eye shades who are looking at the numbers and going through computer modeling of the different districts," Bergstein said. 

Each district in the state must have the same number of people in it, which is why some of the districts around Portland are small geographically and why District 2 in Eastern Oregon is huge.

Bergstein said there will be some who try to draw the lines of the new district so their political party will win elections. The trick for those drawing the new lines will be thinking about where growth will come over the next decade and which voters will move there, Republican, Democrat or Independent.

"There will be areas of Oregon that will continue to grow and some that contract. And that will determine how you want to shape the districts now, not only to win in 2022...but also in the ensuing elections, all the way through to the end of the decade," Bergstein said. 

In Oregon, expanding its U.S. House seats from five to six won’t necessarily be a win for Democrats, who control the state politically and hold all but one of the current seats. 

Democrats agreed to give up their advantage in redrawing political boundaries in a deal to stop Republicans from blocking legislation.

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