The most fruitful legacy of Donald Trump may be the debate over whether he truly includes everyone in our democracy, a clear choice in the 2020 election, and Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination. Should public life in the United States be based on inclusion or should it be based on the hierarchy that has existed for most of our history? It’s also about the Trump administration’s impediment to the 2020 census and how it distorted the current distribution of the House of Representatives.
Large errors in the census cost each seat in New York, Texas, Florida, Arizona, California, and New Jersey, resulting in an additional representative for Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Montana, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
You may recall the then-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s ham-handed scheme to include a question on citizenship status in the 2020 census. It was a conspiracy to suppress the participation of minorities, and it was rejected by the Supreme Court. But the biggest scandals were the constant lack of funding for the census, the shortage of staff and the cut in the schedule. The result was the most flawed calculation in decades. The low count of blacks and Hispanics and the double count of whites and Asians changed the allocation of seats in Congress for the next decade.
These wide-ranging errors are a matter of public record, as Census Bureau professionals compulsorily report the undercount and over-enumeration rates of the ten-year census on the basis of race and ethnicity. Compared to 2010, the low count in 2020 increased from 2.06 to 3.3 percent for blacks, 1.54 to 4.99 percent for Hispanics, and 0.15 to 0.91 percent for reservations and Native Americans for Alaskan Natives. Additional counts also increased, from 0.83 to 1.64 percent for whites and from virtually zero to 2.62 percent for Asians.
These significant flaws hinder the distribution of seats in the House because the ethnic and racial structures of the states change so drastically. In 2019, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico and nine other states accounted for less than 2 percent of the black population in Maryland, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia. Similarly, Hispanics make up less than 3 percent of those living in Maine, Mississippi and the other two states, compared to 27 to 50 percent of those living in Florida, Arizona, California, Nevada and New Mexico.
Much the same, additional counts tend to be concentrated in two groups – non-Hispanic whites and Asians. The share of white residents by state in 2019 ranged from 36 percent in California and New Mexico to 92 percent in Vermont and West Virginia. Similarly, Mississippi, Wyoming, West Virginia and 13 other states have less than 2 percent Asian population, with 9 percent in New York and Nevada, 10 percent in New Jersey, 15 percent in California and 39 percent in Hawaii. .
Applying the 2020 error rate to the ethnic and racial makeup of each state, we see that the low count in the 2020 census deprived six states of their seats in Congress; Accordingly, an additional count of whites and Asians has enabled the other six states to get one seat more than their population.
The contempt of the 2020 census did not have a clear biased effect. More diverse states have been lost, with blacks and Hispanics making up between 33 percent and 52 percent of the population, not only blue New York, California and New Jersey, but also red Texas and Florida and purple Arizona. Similarly, involuntary winners include not only red Montana and Indiana but also blue Minnesota and Oregon and purple Pennsylvania and Wisconsin সমস্ত all states with 80 to 87 percent white and Asian population.
Attempts by Trump officials to block the census did not involve public manipulation of the results. Instead, they stuck to ways to avoid serious mistakes. Here’s how it happened.
Census forms are sent to addresses without the names of the people living there, and fewer counts occur when those who do not answer by mail or online or to census workers who go to unanswered addresses. Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to count for a variety of reasons. First, errors are more prevalent among tenants and blacks and Hispanics have much lower home ownership rates than whites and Asians. Low-income people and immigrants, who are disproportionately black and Hispanic, are also more likely to be under-represented because they are more likely to fear that the Census Bureau will pass on their information to other government agencies. Although federal law prohibits such sharing, most people are unaware of it. In 2000, when I was overseeing the Census Bureau as Under Secretary of Commerce, and again in 2010 when I left, the Bureau spent millions of dollars on advertising that urged recipients not to be intimidated. No such advertisement was aired in 2020.
Additional counts usually occur when people from two households fill out census forms at both addresses and when college students respond from their college address and their parents also list them at their home address. These additional calculations are leaning towards whites and Asians because their home ownership and college enrollment rates are significantly higher than for blacks and Hispanics. Targeted ads may also limit the amount of this extra count, but, again, no such message came in 2020.
Other factors led to a sharp increase in errors in 2020 For years, Trump’s budgets have denied the Census Bureau the resources to compile millions of addresses and test information technology used by census workers. Perhaps most importantly, Trump officials have completed preliminary census ground operations that typically inspect every non-responsive or suspicious address up to three times to ensure more accurate results.
We can accurately identify how external deficiencies changed the structure of the House in 2020 by using the complex formula used by the Census Bureau to determine the distribution of Congress and by analyzing the census data on the number of people or the “priority value” of qualifications. Every seat in every state. For example, New York lost a seat in the 2020 distribution that we can be confident it should have retained: Census priority values show that New York would have held that seat if its official population had been just over 89 – and the error data shows that race and ethnicity Based on that, New York’s estimated net low number was about 61,750.
These priority values further show that the 3,100 people in Texas, who are incompatible with the official population deficit, are gaining another congressional seat from Lone Star State. Its error rate is a net less than the estimated 464,500 people. Similarly, census data indicate that Florida fell short by 4,200 to get another seat in Congress, where its estimated net number was 192,500.
It’s the same story in the other three states: Arizona had 6,600 fewer seats to get another seat and its net number was 69,500. California, with a net low count of 469,000 people, had an official population that only 7,300 people would be ashamed to get a seat in another House. And New Jersey, officially 17,000 people less to win another seat, had a net of 29,500.
Accordingly, the other six states had net overcounts that were much larger than the margins that gave them another seat in Congress – again, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. For example, with an estimated net overcount of about 50,500 people, Minnesota has been able to hold its eighth seat in Congress with less than 100 official gaps. Similarly, the net overcount of more than 78,000 people in Pennsylvania has narrowed the gap to the official census of about 26,000. Keystone enabled the state to retain its 17 House members.
Trump administration officials may or may not have conspired to transfer seats to Congress based on the racial and ethnic makeup of the 2020 census states, but it had the inevitable effect of disregarding their actions. The result is consistent with the underlying (and sometimes explicit) consensus of the GOP that power and legitimacy in America are inseparable from race and ethnicity. This view is incompatible with democracy.