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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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Monday Wake Up Call – December 2, 2019

The Daily Escape:

New snow at Minnehaha Falls, MN – November 2019 photo by memotherboy.

Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman lays out a grim, but possibly likely 2020 scenario, one where Trump loses the popular vote by five million or more votes, and still wins the Electoral College:

“The ultimate nightmare scenario for Democrats might look something like this: Trump loses the popular vote by more than 5 million ballots, and the Democratic nominee converts Michigan and Pennsylvania back to blue. But Trump wins re-election by two Electoral votes by barely hanging onto Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Maine’s 2nd Congressional District — one of the whitest and least college-educated districts in the country.”

In 2016, Trump’s victory hinged on three states he won by less than a point: Michigan (0.2%), Pennsylvania (0.7%) and Wisconsin (0.8%). All three of these relatively white states with aging populations also have high shares of white voters without college degrees, a group that has trended away from Democrats.

It’s been no secret that six states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — are best-positioned to decide which candidate reaches 270 Electoral votes and wins the presidency.

Democrats contend that they won the Senate and governors’ races in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in 2018. And in the House, they flipped two seats in Michigan and four in Pennsylvania.

But Trump could lose Michigan and Pennsylvania and still win the Electoral College, so long as he carries every other place he won in 2016. And Wisconsin is in play, because Democrats won Wisconsin’s governor’s race by just a single point, and failed to gain a House seat. If Wisconsin’s Trump voters turn out in 2020, it could easily stay red.

And should a 269-269 Electoral vote split occur (not impossible), the process moves to the House, with each state delegation having one vote. A majority of states (26) is needed to win. Trump would win, since the GOP holds the majority in 26 states, while Democrats control 22. Two states, Michigan and Pennsylvania, are tied.

The Senate would elect the Vice-President, with each Senator having a vote. A majority of Senators (51) is needed to win, so the GOP would win in the VP in the Senate, as well.

There are a lot of scenarios that could happen in 2020, including a “blowout” victory by Dems. In this scenario, it’s possible the Democratic nominee could win Georgia, Iowa, Ohio or maybe even Texas. But the most likely scenarios see Wisconsin as the state that decides the presidency. Running up the score in California isn’t going to help Dems when it comes to beating Trump.

This makes it of utmost importance that Democrats select a presidential nominee that can energize both the Party’s base, and enough independents to overcome the GOP’s natural advantage in the states that voted for Trump in 2016. That’s going to be harder than it seems. A November Economist/YouGov poll showed this: (emphasis by Wrongo)

A Majority (53%) of Republicans think Donald Trump was a better President than Abraham Lincoln. pic.twitter.com/CrsiYeLUdJ

— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) November 29, 2019

Interestingly, 75% of the country rated Lincoln as better than Trump, showing that the GOP is completely out of step with the rest of us. But, despite an approval rating in the low 40s, Trump has a path to re-election.

Keep this poll in mind whenever the Democratic Party suggests that Democrats can win over Republicans. There may be a few persuadable Republicans, but the majority of Trump’s party actually believes that he is a better president than the guy who kept the nation together by winning the Civil War. Lincoln’s worst day was probably better than Trump’s best.

Time to wake up Democrats! You keep waiting for demographic change to swing many Red states, but most of the change is occurring in noncompetitive states, particularly California and Texas, which threatens to further widen the chasm between winning the popular vote and winning the Electoral College.

Dems need to compete as if our lives depend upon it, in all of the House and Senate elections, in addition to local elections and the presidency!

They need to, because our lives actually do depend upon changing the course we’re on.

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Saturday Soother – August 24, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Ground Swell – 1939 painting by Edward Hopper

In news you most assuredly haven’t seen, the 10th District US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that “Faithless Electors”, people who do not cast their votes in the Electoral College for the winner of their state’s presidential election, are now free to vote for anyone they want.

This Colorado case came about because in 2016, one elector refused to vote for the state’s winner, Hillary Clinton, and instead, voted for John Kasich. The Colorado Secretary of State ordered him to cast his vote for Clinton, or be replaced. He refused and was subsequently replaced with an elector who voted for Clinton.

The faithless elector sued, and the 10th Circuit decided in his favor, saying that the Constitution provides:

“…Presidential electors the right to cast a vote for president and vice president with discretion. And the state does not possess countervailing authority to remove an elector and to cancel his vote in response to the exercise of that Constitutional right.”

The court traced the history of faithless electors back to 1796, when Samuel Miles voted for Thomas Jefferson instead of John Adams. Congress counted his vote. In the 2016 election, there were 13 anomalous votes from three states, and Congress also counted those votes.

This decision could have major ramifications for future presidential elections. The attorney for the faithless elector, Jason Wesoky, said the Court’s ruling essentially makes the laws requiring electors to vote for the state’s winner unenforceable. That impacts 16 states today.

It is even more significant, since a growing number of states are rethinking their Electoral College systems in response to the 2016 election. The 16 states that have passed laws that award all of their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, currently equal 196 electoral votes.

If states representing another 74 electoral votes pass it, the so-called National Popular Vote bill will control the majority of votes in the Electoral College. The bill has passed at least one chamber in 8 additional states with 75 additional electoral votes.

This Appeals Court’s decision means that yet another crucial issue to  the future of our democracy will be in the hands of the Supreme Court, once the appeal gets to them.

Enough of news you won’t ever use, it’s time for your Saturday Soother!

Start by brewing up a mug of Honduras Marcala coffee ($19/12oz.) from Santa Barbara’s Handlebar Coffee Roasters. The founders are professional cyclists who met while riding in the Amgen Tour of California, America’s best bike race.

Now, settle back and listen to something very different, a guitar band from Mali called Tinariwen. They are Tuareg musicians from northern Mali. They play rolling melodic lines and loping rhythms that evoke the desert sands of the Sahara. The band’s name literally means “deserts” in their language, Tamasheq. Here they are playing “Kel Tinawen” from their upcoming album “Amadjar”, available on September 6th:

The video is of a road trip along Africa’s Atlantic coast as the band and crew cross the Western Sahara. They will be touring the US in September. For an early date in Winston-Salem, NC, some locals on social media are leveling violent, racist attacks against the musicians. Welcome to America!

Here is a translation of the lyrics:

Evil tongues – you can keep talking.

The uprising will be impossible to suppress.

The treachery of your evil words has sold out your brothers for your own interests.

You’ve locked them up in a prison, every last one of them.

You fine talkers, tell us what road you plan to take to avoid us if we remain rooted.

You’ve forgotten the suffering of our parents,

The suffering they have experienced since birth,

Unable to find water, unless they dig wells with their own hands.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Demographics is Making Us Less Democratic

The Daily Escape:

Sunset at Malin Head, Donegal, Ireland – 2019 photo by jip

There was an article by Phillip Bump in the WaPo (paywalled) “In about 20 years, half the population will live in eight states.  By 2040, 49.5% of our population will be living in the eight most populous states — California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. All are growing significantly faster than the collective population of the remaining 42 states.

Sounds like just an interesting demographic fact until you consider the implications for the US Senate. Matt Yglesias tweets:

When Yglesias says “four” instead of “two” he means the margin in percentage points of the 2020 national vote for president going to the Democrat. His point is that even with a weakened presidential candidate like Trump, it will be a long uphill climb for Democrats to control a majority in the Senate.

Last fall at the Kavanaugh hearings, many pointed out that Senators representing only 45% of voters were able to appoint him to the Supreme Court. Some said it was the first time that a president elected by a minority nominated a Supreme Court Justice who was appointed by a minority in the Senate to decide certain legal questions against the will of the majority of Americans.

And while California has about 68 times the number of people in Wyoming, their votes can cancel each other out in the Senate.

This demographic imbalance is the result of 1787’s “Connecticut Compromise”, which created our two houses of government. This was designed to balance federal power between large and small state populations. Today, equal representation in the Senate is a permanent feature of our system.

After each decennial census, the map of US House districts are redrawn and seats are shifted to states that have gained the most population. That means, leaving aside the gerrymandering issue, each state’s representation in the US House will roughly reflect its share of our total population.

This isn’t the case in the Senate, where the representation of all states is fixed at two Senators apiece. And that can’t be changed, because it’s based on a Constitutional provision (Article V) which establishes that an amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states. It also says: “No State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.” It’s hard to imagine a situation where a small state would agree to give up one of its two Senators to another, larger state.

That was the essence of the Connecticut Compromise. The framers agreed to make the guarantee of equal power in the Senate beyond even the reach of the amendment process. It was a means of protecting the rights of the minority as “minorities” in 1787 were small states, while today, minority has an entirely different meaning.

Changing demographics has implications for the Electoral College as well. Each state’s votes are the sum of their House and Senate representatives with the total number of Electoral votes fixed at 538. If population growth moves representatives from rural states to the big eight in population, their share of votes in the Electoral College become larger as well.

There is a state-based movement to make the Electoral College represent the will of the majority of America’s voters. NPR reports that so far, 11 states have passed legislation that requires their Electoral College electors to vote for whoever wins the national vote total. To be effective, the move would require approval by states representing 270 electoral votes, the same number it takes to win the presidency. So far, they are 98 votes short of that goal.

Colorado appears poised to join as the 12th state. The state legislature passed the bill, and the governor is expected to sign it. New Mexico is considering it. This would be one way of restoring the idea that every vote in the country counts equally.

Wrongo’s pie-in-the-sky dream is that every American voter gets a third vote for a Senator in any other state. Then we could vote for, or against a Senator we wanted to see stay or go. Wrongo’s dream began when Strom Thurmond represented South Carolina, but imagine, being able to vote Lindsey Graham out of office today.

That would be a real masterpiece of one-person, one-vote in America.

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GOP Plans to Gerrymander the Electoral College

Donald Trump was the fifth candidate in our history to win sufficient votes in the Electoral College (EC) to become president after losing the popular vote. Now, Republicans are making an effort at the state level to change how electoral votes are apportioned to presidential candidates, from winner take all, to being allocated to the winner of each congressional district.

Republicans call this a modest tweak to the EC process. But it will make gerrymandering of congressional districts even more important to electing the president than it is to electing Members of Congress today.

How today’s system works:

In 48 states, (all except Maine and Nebraska) the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in their state receives all of that state’s electoral votes. A state’s number of electors equals its number of US Representatives and Senators.

Although ballots list the names of the presidential candidates, when voters within the 50 states and Washington, DC vote for President and Vice President, they’re actually choosing electors proposed by the Parties in their state. These presidential electors then cast electoral votes for those two offices, so the EC elects the President or Vice President, not the popular vote.

Despite what you might think, the Constitution reserves the power to appoint electors to the states. Here is Article 2, Section 1; Clause 2:

Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

So it is clear that each state has the exclusive right to determine how their state electors are selected.

The proposed Republican “tweak”:

The Republican tweak apportions electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the vote in each congressional district. The two remaining electors would go to whomever wins the statewide vote. States considering moving to allocating electoral votes to the candidate winning in each congressional district include Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia – all have legislatures controlled by Republicans. Two, Virginia and Minnesota, currently have Democratic governors, so at this point, they could veto the proposed legislation.

After the 2010 census, 55% of all congressional districts were redrawn to favor Republicans, while just 10% were redrawn to benefit Democrats. In 2016, Trump carried 230 districts to just 205 for Hillary Clinton, even though Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes nationally. So if every state awarded electoral votes by congressional district, Trump would have still prevailed. And guess what? Mitt Romney would also have won in 2012, and George W. Bush would have won in 2000.

The tweak takes voting power away from cities and puts more in suburban and rural areas, making it more likely that a candidate with fewer votes over all could routinely win a larger share of electoral votes. And thanks in part to recent poor performance by Democrats, 32 States now have Republican-controlled legislatures.

Should we be talking about this at all? Debating whether to pass bills to reduce the value of an urban vote to a fraction of the value of other voters?

Sounds like a Republican paradise.

An advantage of the EC is that it tends to improve the winner’s margin of victory and thus the presidential mandate at the beginning of his/her term in office. Also, it ensures that candidates actually campaign in more states, rather than in fewer. Would anyone campaign in NH when they could garner many times more popular votes in a couple of counties in California? They do it today because NH’s four electoral votes can make a difference.

The president doesn’t represent congressional districts. The president represents all the people, which is why the ONLY reasonable reform to the EC is a nationwide popular vote.

The fact remains that Republicans have the ability to make this happen. Allowing statehouses to decide presidential elections will have undemocratic consequences. Keeping politicians from making the Electoral College subject to gerrymander is crucial.

To help us pause and reflect on this threat, here is Leonard Cohen with “Democracy” from his 1992 album, “The Future”, here performed in 2008 live in London:

Cohen said this about the song:

It’s a song of deep intimacy and affirmation of the experiment of democracy in this country. That this is really where the experiment is unfolding. This is really where the races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another. This is the real laboratory of democracy.

Let’s hope the experiment doesn’t fail.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Sample lyrics:
I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene.
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I’m junk but I’m still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 3, 2016

The presidential choices for 2016 are Clinton or Trump. You could write-in Bernie, or Jill Stein, or one of the fringe candidates, but not all write-in votes are counted for Electoral College purposes. 43 states, representing 494 electoral votes, count write-in votes, although the candidate has to have registered electors in some of those states to be counted. So you could be throwing your vote away by writing in someone.

And this year, we can’t afford any wasted votes. If you doubt that, check out this rockin ‘n rollin’ week.

SCOTUS redefined “Undue Burden” for Texas:

COW Undue Burden

Scalia opined from beyond the grave:

COW Scalia in Hell.gif

The GOP Benghazi strategy focused on the wrong fire:

COW Benghazi Fire

The non-event called the Benghazi Congressional Report was issued:

COW Benghazi Mud

Why can’t the GOP move on from Benghazi? Please don’t say it’s because 4 people died. Think about how many have died from shootings in America since Benghazi, without any GOP interest in holding hearings on Gunz. We deserve better from these birds we elect.

Loretta Lynch knew better than to meet with the Big Dog:

Schmooze 2

Loretta Lynch used to be a prosecutor. She knows better than to speak with the spouse of someone under an active investigation. As an officer of the court, she should have told Bill that talking together was improper, and had someone else on her staff speak with him. She has tarnished the credibility of the investigation and should resign. OTOH, Mr. Bill drop kicked his wife’s good news on the Benghazi investigation to the curb, making her the story again. And he is (was) a lawyer, and ought to know the protocol as well as Lynch.

Of course, Bill denied it:

COW Bills Denial

 

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