Staffing cutbacks, poor planning and inadequate outreach by the federal government all threaten an undercount of minority group members, the poor and rural Americans in the coming census, leaders of civil rights groups are warning Congress.
After failing a decade ago to count more than 1.5 million African-Americans and Latinos, as well as 50,000 American Indians and Native Alaskans, the Census Bureau's planned reduction of local offices and field workers for the enumeration this spring has sparked fears that the 2020 undercount will be even more significant — and with lasting consequences.
Such inaccuracies could result in several congressional seats being given to the wrong states, and billions of dollars in federal aid being wrongly allocated for the next decade, the civil rights advocates told a House panel on Thursday.
A federal judge is allowing a coalition of 15 states and the District of Columbia to be defendants in a lawsuit seeking to exclude noncitizens from being counted in the run-up to the re-allocation of congressional seats.
Last year the state of Alabama and one of its Republican congressmen, Mo Brooks, sued the Trump administration, arguing that the counting of undocumented immigrants in census figures used for determining reapportionment unfairly benefits states with higher numbers of noncitizens.
Alabama contends that counting the whole population — the practice used for apportionment since Congess began — rather than just citizens will cost the state one of its seven House seats (and therefore one of its electoral votes) following the 2020 census tally.
The redrawing of legislative district boundaries. A 1967 federal law requires House members be elected from single-member districts that (within each state) have nearly identical populations. House maps must be redrawn after reapportionment but before the first congressional election of each decade, based on population changes in each state revealed by the census.
The process of redistributing the number of seats in the House of Representatives to the states based on population changes revealed by the census, after which redistricting can begin. The number of voting seats in the House was set by law at 435 in 1929, and the Commerce Department uses a mathematical formula to apportion them based on the total resident population of the 50 states – citizens and noncitizens. Each state is guaranteed at least one seat.