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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

The Looming Census Problem

The Daily Escape:

Breckinridge, CO – July 2020 photo by doughboyme

(The Wrongologist is taking a summer vacation starting today. We will return on August 9th. Wrongo urges all readers to also take a break. Got to get ready for the silly season that starts soon.)

Time to talk 2020 census. The Census Bureau’s follow-up visits to non-responding households were originally scheduled to begin in early May, but they were delayed by a freeze on census field operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, the Trump administration asked Congress to extend the deadlines for the Census Bureau to turn in their head count data. The Census Bureau independently postponed finishing field operations for the census from the end of July to the end of October.

The House agreed to the extensions, but the Senate hasn’t. Senate Republicans on Monday instead proposed additional funding as part of their HEAL bill to help conclude the census on time, without extending the deadline.

The Census Bureau is required to turn over numbers for apportioning Congressional seats by Dec. 31, and the numbers to be used for redrawing state and local legislative districts by March 30. The requested deadline extensions would push back the apportionment deadline to April 30 for Congress, and to July 31 for state and local districts.

The politics of these decisions are clear. Trump no longer wants a deadline extension, and he doesn’t want undocumented residents counted at all.

The timing of Trump’s memorandum excluding the undocumented and his abandonment of the request to push back the reporting deadlines suggests that the White House wants to ensure that the numbers are undercounted. Also, that Trump  receives the apportionment numbers while he’s still in office so they can be fixed if necessary.

House Democrats are wary of what they see as Trump’s attempts to politicize the 2020 census, and want the Senate Republicans to approve the request for deadline extensions. That would mean there’s a chance the final months of the data-crunching would take place under a Biden administration, assuming Biden defeats Trump in November.

Staying on the usual deadline probably means that many people, documented or not, won’t be counted. Only about 63% of Americans have been counted so far. That means about 55 million households haven’t responded, and will require visits by census takers.

The Census Bureau is about to send its 500,000 door-knockers out to begin surveying households that haven’t yet answered the questionnaire, and Pew Research says it will be difficult to get them to open their doors:

“Among those who say they have not participated in the census, 40% say they would not be willing to talk to a census worker who came to the door…”

The 40% breaks down into 16% who say they’re unwilling to talk to the Census people at all, and 24% say they are not very willing to speak with them.

So, what does it all mean for apportioning Congressional seats?

The job is to use the census data to equitably assign the House’s 435 seats to the 50 states. The first 50 seats are automatically assigned, one per state. A series of formulas called the method of Equal Proportions is used to divide up the remaining 385 seats among the states on the basis of their populations. The method of Equal Proportions was first used to apportion House seats in 1940 and has been used ever since.

The apportionment population of a state is defined as all persons residing in the state as of April 1, plus all American military and civilian personnel of the federal government and their dependents from that state who were residing abroad.

At the last census in 2010, the states receiving the largest number of seats were California with 53; Texas with 36 seats, and then Florida and New York with 27 apiece. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming each received only one seat, the one they are granted automatically.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia did a preliminary estimate of how the House seats will be distributed once the 2020 census is in. It obviously is a projection, but the results are shown on this map:

Of the 10 states projected to lose one House seat each in 2020, only two are red states. Of the seven states projected to gain House seats in 2020, six are red states.

If the 2020 apportionment followed Trump’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants, this would be the outcome:

Eight states will lose nine seats with California leading the way. Seven of the eight seats lost would be in blue states.

Seven states would gain nine seats: Texas and Florida would gain two each. Six of the gains would be in red states.

Remember that a state’s votes in the Electoral College are equal to its seats in Congress. It’s not hard to see why Trump wants an undercount that favors Texas and Florida.

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2020 Census Brings Scams, Confusion

The Daily Escape:

Florida Beach in February – 2015 photo by Wrongo

(Posting will be light and variable until March 8th, as Wrongo and Ms. Right spend a few days warming up in Florida)

The 2020 census is about to start. That’s the way we estimate the number of people living in each location in our country. The census is more than just a headcount; it shapes the distribution of political power and government funding for the next 10 years. It will inform the redistricting process at every political level across the country. So Congressional seats and Electoral College votes hang in the balance.

The Census Bureau is running more than 1,000 census ads in the US through July 2020 to encourage all households to participate. The Census Bureau confirmed that all advertisements will include a disclaimer underscoring that participants’ information will not be shared with any other parties, presumably, like ICE.

It’s expected that scams will be everywhere. According to AARP:

– 70% of respondents were incorrect or unsure about whether the Census Bureau would use email to contact them. Actually, all correspondence is sent via US mail

– 35% expect or are unsure whether the Census questionnaire will ask for their Social Security number, bank account information or passwords, or that it will require payment of a fee

It’s clear that the AARP crowd skews older, so you might expect that there would be some level of confusion that could make them susceptible to scams.

In addition to scams, Republicans are taking the opportunity of the census to collect information and raise funds with a form letter labeled “Census”. Here’s a sample:

The document asks questions, some of which are leading and biased, such as:

“Do you approve or disapprove of the Democrats’ agenda to raise taxes, provide free health care and college tuition for all, open our borders to all immigrants, enact dangerous abortion policies, pack the Supreme Court, allow inmates to vote and abolish the Electoral College?”

There is also continuing confusion about whether the census is asking a citizenship question, despite the fact that the US Census Bureau was directed by the Supreme Court not to include it.

A Pew Research Center survey just found that most Americans believe, incorrectly, that the 2020 census will ask about whether each individual in the household is a citizen:

“A 56% majority of the public thinks the census will include a question about citizenship, according to the Pew survey. Another 25% are not sure. Only 17% know that a citizenship question will not be on the census. By demographic segment, here’s who knows there will be no citizenship question on the census:

14% of women, and 20% of men

20% of Democrats and 14% of Republicans

15 to 16% of adults under age 65 and 21% of those aged 65 or older

18% percent of Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites, but only 9% of blacks

21% of foreign-born Hispanics versus 16% of native-born Hispanics

26% of those with a bachelor’s degree and 13% of those with less education”

Whether this mistaken belief will suppress participation in the census, which is just a few weeks away, remains to be seen. Also, Pew says that certain groups are more hesitant to participate, including black and Hispanic adults. The Census Bureau says it is targeting black and Hispanic populations, as well as some groups of young adults, for additional outreach because they have been hard to count in the past.

The 2020 Census will be the first to be completed largely online, assuming that the Census Bureau’s plan goes off without complications. And Pew says that 60% are interested in doing so. But, the possibility of scamming will be ever-present.

People do have the option to request a paper form. One way to verify that the document received in the mail is an official Census Bureau form is to see if the enclosed envelope to mail it back is addressed to Jeffersonville, IN, or Phoenix, AZ, locations of the Census Bureau’s processing centers.

Like in the 2020 national elections, turning out for, and completing the census is very important to the future of the country.

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