ATLANTA — Georgia’s population has swelled to nearly 9.7 million, boosting its representation in Congress, numbers released by the U.S. Census show.
The increase of more than 1.5 million people — up from nearly 8.2 million in 2000 — means the state picks up a seat in the House of Representatives, raising Georgia’s House delegation to 14 members. Numbers from the 2010 census were announced Tuesday, including the official U.S. population, which totaled more than 308 million people.
The census counted every person living in the United States on April 1. It’s mandated by the Constitution to determine how to divide the seats in the House among the 50 states.
Census director Robert Groves says the South and West continued their strong population growth over the last decade.
The total national count was 308,745,538, representing the slowest growth over the last decade since the Great Depression.
Groves spoke at a briefing announcing 2010 census results. He says the South had the fastest growth since 2000, at 14.3 percent. The West was close behind at 13.8 percent.
The Northeast had 3.2 percent growth while the Midwest had 3.9 percent.
The state with the largest population growth was Nevada with 35.1 percent. Michigan was the only state with a decline, at 0.6 percent.
For the first time in its history, Democratic-leaning California will not gain a House seat after a census.
Starting early next year, most state governments will use detailed, computer-generated data on voting patterns to carve neighborhoods in or out of newly drawn House districts, tilting them more to the left or right. Sometimes politicians play it safe, quietly agreeing to protect Republican and Democratic incumbents alike. But sometimes the party in control will gamble and aggressively try to reconfigure the map to dump as many opponents as possible.
Last month’s elections put Republicans in full control of numerous state governments, giving the GOP an overall edge in the redistricting process. State governments’ ability to gerrymander districts is somewhat limited, however, by court rulings that require roughly equal populations, among other things. The 1965 Voting Rights Act protects ethnic minorities in several states that are subject to U.S. Justice Department oversight.
The U.S. is still growing quickly relative to other developed nations. The population in France and England each increased roughly 5 percent during the past decade, while in Japan the number is largely unchanged, and Germany’s population is declining. China grew at about 6 percent; Canada’s growth rate is roughly 10 percent.