Under Trump, the 2020 U.S. Census could fail to count 4 million Americans

Republican efforts to rig the 2020 U.S. Census could leave more than four million people, including a large number of black and Latinx Americans, uncounted and unrepresented, according to a new study from the Urban Institute.

The upcoming 2020 Census is facing “unprecedented challenges and threats,” according to the report, thanks to the Trump Administration, which has done everything possible to ensure that minority populations are left uncounted, giving Republicans a huge edge during the 2021 congressional and state legislative redistricting process.

The Constitution mandates that the Census count everyone living in America every 10 years. But in an effort to help Republicans retain power amid a national demographic that has shifted left, the administration has underfunded the entire counting process and made under-tested process changes.

It has also lied in federal court about why it decided to add a last-minute citizenship question to the Census — a cynical plot that came to light after tens of thousands of files belonging to deceased Republican gerrymandering mastermind Thomas Hofeller, surfaced last month.

“We believe that all along, the motivation for adding the citizenship question is not only to force and undercount of people of color, young people and people who are not mobile, but use the results to be able to skew the redistricting that happens in 2021,” said Kathay Feng, the national redistricting director for the government watchdog Common Cause. 

“I think that the Urban Institute’s report puts into stark relief what the impact will be to millions of people’s lives,” she added. 

An undercount of the country’s population in the 2020 Census is “inevitable,” according to the Urban Institute report, thanks to demographic changes that have taken place over the past decade.

The U.S. Census Bureau, which conducts the count, has taken steps to reach typically undercounted populations including complex households, renters, young children, immigrants and people of color.

But their techniques — which include internet self-responses and reliance on administrative records to fill in information for the populations that were missing — have been insufficiently tested, and could disproportionately improve the count of White Americans, which are already the easiest to count, the report found.

And the Census Bureau is grossly unprepared to accurately count the U.S. population, with the Government Accountability Office finding that the agency is underfunded and understaffed.

Experts say efforts to add a citizenship question would deter Latinx, immigrant, and undocumented Americans from participating in the Census, leaving the most vulnerable populations undercounted. This would affect not only their representation in Congress and in their state legislature but the ability of minority communities to access billions of dollars in federal funds for everything from roads to schools to healthcare.

Overall, the U.S. population could be undercounted by 1.22%, affecting states with large minority populations the hardest, including California, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Georgia, New York, and Florida, according to the Urban Institute. That statistic was a number the report projected could happen in a “high risk” scenario, which they gathered based on past Census data.

The report gave “low-risk” figures, which projected what populations would be over- or undercounted if the tally was on par with the 2010 Census and “high risk” projections, which took into account the Republican rigging efforts.

Black and Hispanic or Latinx Americans could each be undercounted by almost 4%, the report found. The Trump administration’s schemes could also undercount children under the age of 5 by more than 6%, another population that has historically been left out of the Census data.

Meanwhile, the Republican voting population of choice, non-Hispitanic whites, could be over counted nationally by .03 % in states like Vermont, West Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, and Montana, according to the report.

In December 2017, the Department of Justice sent a memo to the U.S. Census Bureau claiming it needed better census data on citizenship to protect minority populations from voter discrimination.

Last January, a federal judge ordered the removal of the question from the Census because, as more than a dozen state attorney generals and government watchdog groups have argued, the question would create a chilling effect on the participation. The case, Department of Commerce v. New York, is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last month, it was revealed that Hofeller had previously urged the Trump administration to add the citizenship question to the Census, which would “clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”

The trove of Hofeller’s data, including four hard drives and 18 thumb drives containing more than 75,000 were found by the GOP operative’s daughter. That data is now in the possession of Common Cause.


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