Usually, when someone says South Carolina is the poster child for something, we're about to be insulted.

Most dangerous roads, worst SAT scores, highest unemployment -- you name it. If it's bad, we're tops.

So it's nice to see the Palmetto State getting props for something positive.

Our own David Slade reports today that Census Director Robert Groves singled out the Carolinas as poster children for public participation by increasing their initial response to Census forms by 8 percentage points over 2000 Census totals. So far, 73 percent of South Carolinians have returned Census forms, which is -- surprise -- slightly higher than the national average.

Charleston was singled out for increasing its return rate 9 percentage points over the last Census -- the best jump among cities of 50,000 or more folks.

Now maybe we filed our Census forms because everyone here is sick of the federal government spending our money on those stupid reminder postcards. The mayor says, however, it's due to the hard work of community folks organizing at the grass-roots level. But there may be another, even simpler reason.

They said if everyone filled out a Census form we'd get a new congressman.

Musical seats

As it turns out, we'll get a new congressman anyway because Henry Brown is retiring. But what these officials meant was that South Carolina has a good chance to pick up a seventh seat in Congress.

The 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are divided between the states according to population (unlike that socialist Senate, which gives two seats to every state).

As the population increases, the size of congressional districts grows, but the total number of seats stays the same. As a result, there are Census winners and losers every 10 years. And there are often big swings. Until 1930, South Carolina had seven seats in Congress. Heck, we had nine during the antebellum era. After The War, we had only four -- but that should be counted as a gain since during the war we didn't have any!

This year, most experts figure that Georgia, Nevada and even Utah will pick up a seat, while Texas, Florida and Arizona will gain multiple seats.

At least until Arizona deports a congressional district's worth of people.

Welcome, Buckeyes

When you look at the states likely to lose seats in Congress -- Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota, for instance -- you see what's happening. All those folks who are tired of freezing nine months a year are migrating South, and taking their representation with them.

By that reckoning, South Carolina should get both the seats Ohio is slated to lose -- we get everyone else from there.

In the short-term, this once-a- decade deal is going to lead to untold hours of entertainment, as we watch the Republican-controlled state Legislature try to contort our already screwy congressional districts into even weirder shapes as they try to dump every Democrat in the state into Jim Clyburn's district.

The good news is that we are finally going to get something for all the additional traffic and strain on our infrastructure: one more federal official to despise.