At the time of the 2010 census, exactly 4,890 people lived in a Fair Oaks census tract that later became part of Sacramento County’s 7th Congressional District.
That number has since grown to 4,974 people – give or take a few hundred, according to more recent census figures.
The disparity underscores the data dilemma that would confront California lawmakers if, as some experts think is likely, the U.S. Supreme Court sides with Arizona Republicans’ argument that Arizona’s independent redistricting commission had no business drawing the state’s congressional lines after the 2010 census. A decision is expected any day.
Such a ruling could reverberate in California by undoing the congressional maps drawn by the state’s Citizens Redistricting Commission in 2011. That would drop the issue in the lap of the California Legislature, with a new map possible by next year’s election. With Democrats firmly in control in Sacramento, some Republicans fear new maps would put the GOP at a political disadvantage in the 2016 congressional contests.
And then there’s the issue of the data itself. In 2011, the commission was able to craft districts that were within a mere one person of a target population of 702,905 using 2010 census data.
But populations have increased and people have moved since the census. Congressional districts average more like 710,000, according to newer numbers, which are only estimates.