Monday, April 19, 2010

The U.S. Census

Friday was the deadline to mail 2010 census forms. The results of this census will have a profound effect on the American political landscape over the coming decade. The 2010 census will determine the apportionment of U.S. House of Representatives seats and Electoral College votes for each state, and much more.

Projections of reapportionment, based on the U.S. Census Bureau's population estimates and trends, indicate that 10 U.S. House of Representatives seats will shift among 17 states upon the completion of this census. If the census is accurately taken, the biggest reapportionment winner from the 2010 Census will be Texas with 4 additional U.S. House seats. If Texas does gain 4 seats, it would give the Lone Star state 36 U.S. House Representatives and 37 Electoral College Votes. Texas currently has 32 Congressional Districts and 34 Electoral College Votes.
AP News Wire - April 28, 2010: Five states - New York, California, Texas, Arizona and Florida - are perilously close to losing out on congressional seat gains because of lackluster participation in the U.S. census. The five were average or below average in mailing back 10-question census forms when compared to other states, trailing by as many as 5 percentage points, according to the final census mail-in tally released Wednesday.
A research study of likely 2011 reapportionment numbers published in December 2009 by Polidata projects:
  • States gaining House seats: Texas (+4), Arizona (+2), Florida (+1), Georgia (+1), Nevada (+1), Oregon (+1), South Carolina (+1), and Utah (+1). (States May Also Gain Electoral College Votes)
  • States losing House seats: Ohio (-2), Illinois (-1), Iowa (-1), Louisiana (-1), Massachusetts (-1), Michigan (-1), Minnesota (-1), Missouri (-1), New Jersey (-1), New York (-1), and Pennsylvania (-1). (States May Also Loose Electoral College Votes)
  • Minnesota and Rhode Island are also on the very edge of losing one seat each. (If Rhode Island does lose one House seat it would join Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming as states with only a single representative seat in the U.S. House.)
The 2011 redistricting of Texas Congressional, State Senate, State House and various other representational districts will also be based on the 2010 census count. Collin County should see changes in the number elected representatives it sends to the U.S. House, State Senate, State House and perhaps other local elected offices within the county.
For example: Using the Census Bureau's 2009 total state population estimate of 24,782,302 the ideal house district population number is 165,215. These numbers suggest a potential increase in the number of Texas House districts in Collin, Denton, Fort Bend, Hidalgo, Johnson, Tarrant, and Williamson Counties and a potential decrease in the number of house districts in Dallas, El Paso, and Nueces Counties. The actual number of Texas House districts added to or subtracted from each large county cannot be determined until the 2010 Census count has been processed.

From pages 9 and 11 of the Texas Legislative Council's 2010 Redistricting report.
Collin County ranks as one of the top growth areas in the state and the nation. In the ten years since the 2000 census, the county's population has grown more than 52 percent. With nearly 800,000 residents the county now has a population equal to or greater than the states of Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.
The U.S. Census Bureau's population estimates that in just a single year (July 2008 - July 2009) the population of Texas increased by 231,539 people — more than Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida and Nevada, combined.
Right wing hullabaloo over the federal Census, particularly the improbable claim that the Census is unconstitutional, is reportedly leading a lot of the most conservative Republicans to refuse to fill out their Census forms. Without an accurate census count Texas residents risk under-representation over the next decade, not to mention a lower apportionment of money from the federal government to build and maintain Texas infrastructure.
The federal government relies on census results to divvy up about $400 billion annually to state and local governments. For every Texan who is not counted in the Census, the state will lose an estimated $12,000 over the next decade in federal infrastructure funding for transportation, agriculture, health and education.
The census return figures are lagging where they were 10 years ago, and Texas figures are lower than the national figures. Ten years ago the nation returned about 72% of the mailed out forms, but this year they have only returned about 69%. In Texas, about 64% of the forms have been mailed back, compared to 68% in 2000. For the North Texas Metro region the census form return rate is:
  • 62 percent of Dallas County,
  • 65 percent for Tarrant County,
  • 67 percent for Denton County,
  • 70 percent for Collin County and
  • 73 percent for Rockwall County.
Those households that did not mail in a Census form, or that only partially filled it out, can expect one of the 84,000 Texas census workers to visit their home to gather the census information. If there is no answer when a census worker rings the door bell, they will return to ring the door bell as many as eight more times to gather the census information. Whether you mailed in a Census form or not, whether you cooperate or not when a census worker comes to your home, your household will be counted and all questions will be answered. Those households that do not cooperate simply cause the government to waste more time and more money to complete the census.

If you mailed your census form by last Friday April 16th, then you cost the government only a few cents to count your household. If you did not mail in census form, or you only partially filled it out, then the government must spend about $57 dollars to count your household, and more, if you do not cooperate when the census worker visits your home. If you refuse to answer when they ring your door bell, they will talk to your neighbors, and if necessary, go and check on your household through public records. Your home, your household will be counted and all questions will be answered

Karl Rove
Republicans should be salivating at the prospects of taking four U.S. House seats away from Democrats in northern states to send four additional Texas Republicans to Congress. But, it seems, not so much.

Instead, Republican heavy wieghts are sweating over the prospect that the far-right faction of the GOP may disrupt their political calculations.

That is why even Karl Rove, Deputy Chief of Staff to former President George W. Bush, recorded a public service announcement encouraging national participation in the 2010 Census.

As an article in The Hill points out, "Ultimately, Polidata's findings confirms expectations that voters living in manufacturing states are beginning to retire and head south."
Have you noticed numerous and very large retirement communities springing up all over Collin County?

It is not likely that all those northerners moving to Texas are Republican. In fact, it is more likely that more of those northern transplants are Democrats rather than Republicans.
Latinos make up a very large percentage of the population growth in Texas, and as articles in TexasKaos and Waco Tribune-Herald point out, many conservatives, who now control the Republican party, do not welcome Latinos, or indeed any minority, into the party fold. Have you seen any Latinos at your local Texas Tea Party events lately?
According to an article in the Waco Tribune-Herald, conservative activists created the Hispanic Republican Club of McLennan County to reach out to Latino, African-American, and young voters. Part of the clubs stated mission would be to fill the vacancies in the 40 out of 92 precincts that lack precinct chairs. Many of the precincts that have vacancies are in predominately minority areas. However, the McLennan County Republican Party chairman M.A. Taylor does not consider it important to fill those vacancies, and apparently does not think that minorities hold conservative views.
America’s Voice Education Fund recently released the following analysis:
Latinos are not just settling in major cities, but diverse regions of the country. After the 2010 Census, new Members of Congress in states like Georgia and South Carolina as well as Arizona and Texas will owe their positions, in part, to the expanding Latino population.

Latinos represent 51% of population growth in the United States as a whole since 2000. They have driven growth in the states poised to gain House seats following the 2010 Census, especially in those projected to gain more than one seat.

Texas, the state projected to gain the most from reapportionment, has seen the highest percentage of Latino population growth. Latinos comprise 63% of the population growth in Texas since 2000 and are the single largest reason that the state is projected to gain four seats in the U.S. House—the greatest change, positive or negative, among any state in the nation.

In Texas, the Latino share of the voter population grew between 2000 and 2008 to encompass over one-fifth of the electorate. Although Texas has had a large Latino population throughout its history, Latino voting registration and turnout jumped by approximately 30% from 2000 to 2008, and the Latino share of the overall electorate increased to over 20%.
Some Latinos are progressives and some are conservatives, but whatever their political leanings Latinos seek political representation just like every other American. If Latinos and members of any minority community can't find representation and political voice in the Republican party, they will find it in the Democratic party.

U.S. Census and Representational Redistricting

The founding fathers wanted to establish a truly representative government and linking state population totals to the number of members in the House of Representatives would serve this purpose.

Article One of the United States Constitution describes the legislative branch of the federal government - the Congress - and establishes the manner of election and qualifications of legislative branch members. Specifically, Article 1 Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution says:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States ... Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers ... The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct...
The first U.S. Census of 1790 authorized by Congress specified that the enumeration that year would not only count “inhabitants” but would also record information about age, sex, race, status, and so forth, in order to assess the country’s military and industrial potential.
Subsequent Census Acts enacted by congress over the past two centuries expanded the number of questions asked during the census so that Congress could obtain the information it deemed it needed to "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof." (The Necessary and Proper Clause Article I, Section 8, Clause 18 of the U.S. Constitution)
Originally, there were only 65 members in the U.S. House of Representatives. Because the U.S. Constitution links the number of House representatives to population count, House membership grew to 106 members after the 1790 census determined there were 4 million people living in the U.S. The number of representatives continued to grow along with the nation's population until 1911 when Congress "apportioned" House membership to a maximum of 435.
Apportionment, the process of distributing the 435 Congressional seats among the states, depends on population counts, but simple division generates fractions -- you cannot send a third of an elected official to Congress. Mathematicians, statisticians and politicians debated the problem until 1941 when Congress adopted the mathematical formula known today as Equal Proportions under Title 2, Section 2a of the U. S. Code. (For further information on how "Equal Proportions" determines the number of Congressional seats in each state - click here)
The apportionment of Congressional seats is only part of the process of distributing political power. The individual states rely on U.S. census data for redrawing (redistricting) their own state and county level political districts. After the 1970 census, state officials complained that the results did not include summary data for local areas such as election precincts and wards. These areas are the essential building blocks for creating new districts and meeting the "one-person-one-vote" requirements mandate by Supreme Court of the United States case findings.
During the 1960s, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a series of cases that congressional and state legislative districts must consist of relatively equal populations. Specifically, the Court's decision in Wesberry v. Sanders (1964) mandated that states apportion congressional district boundaries based strictly according to population.
In 1975, Congress enacted P.L. 94-171 requiring the U.S. Census Bureau to coordinate with officials in the individual states before each census. Together the U.S. Census Bureau and state officials define a geographic plan that produces the "small-area population data" needed by state state and local level governments to equally represent the people and to redraw Congressional, State Legislative and other local representational districts.

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