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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Many are wondering if Trump botched the Census. It would be perfectly on brand

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But the biggest surprises by far came in the Sun Belt states of Texas, Florida, and Arizona, where many political strategists expected a gain of six seats total—three in Texas, two in Florida, and one in Arizona. Instead, each state gained one seat less than expected: Texas (2), Florida (1), and no pick up in Arizona. 

For now, the Census Bureau has only released the top line numbers, with a release of some of the more granular demographic data still several months away. But many demographic experts and statisticians are already zeroing in on an undercount of Latino voters as potentially being responsible for lagging gains in these Sun Belt states.

On the one hand, Latinos and other underserved communities are often more difficult to count from the get-go. But then Trump and his bumpkins had the stellar idea of trying to force a citizenship question into the census, which could have very well suppressed responsiveness in these communities even further. 

The costs of such an undercount are both human and political. For next decade, “undercounted communities could lose out on an untold amount of federal funding that uses census data as a base,” reports Politico.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas of California, who previously led the Congressional Hispanic Caucus PAC, told Politico, “An undercount means that there’s less money for the kids in your neighborhood, there’s less money coming your way for the seniors who need support in your neighborhood. That is the ultimate cost to a community.”

But politically speaking, it likely hurt Republicans more than Democrats. GOP strategists had been salivating over the idea of gaining five seats between Texas and Florida alone. In Texas, in particular, they could have drawn two safe Republican districts and created a third as a Democratic “vote sink.” So much for that.

In Arizona, where a nonpartisan commission would have overseen redistricting, Democrats may have missed out on an opportunity. The ever-growing Phoenix suburbs might have been a natural fit to locate a brand new seat.

Some observers are also attributing the anemic pick ups in the Sun Belt to a lack of investment from state legislatures in the region. California, for instance, invested nearly $200 million in an outreach program that sought to increase the Census response rate in the state.

“Three of the states with large Latino populations — Arizona, Texas, Florida — who underperformed in the apportionment gains, were also three states that virtually invested nothing in outreach to complement what the Census Bureau was doing,” said Arturo Vargas, the CEO of NALEO Educational Fund, an organization for Latino politicians. “Texas did something at the very last minute, but Florida and Arizona did not invest the kind of resources that you saw, for example, New Mexico put in, or New York or California.”

That was also the assessment of Michael Li, a redistricting expert at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

“We’ll have to wait for more granular data, but it certainly looks like the Texas Legislature’s decision not to budget $ to encourage census participation combined with the Trump administration efforts to add a citizenship question cost Texas a congressional district,” Li tweeted Monday.


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