What You Need To Know:
The long-awaited announcement of the 2020 Census results was released last week, prompting concern and surprise from some states and civic organizations. Census data, which shows the U.S. population in 2020 grew at its slowest pace since the 1930s, is used to determine the number of House seats allotted to each state, redistricting and $1.5 trillion a year in federal funding. The count has reset the balance of power for the next decade in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College, where each state’s share of votes is tied to its census numbers.
Texas has gained two more votes in Congress and the Electoral College for the next decade, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon each gained one seat. The seven states losing one vote each are California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York, which lost a seat by a margin of just 89 people.
Texas, Florida, and Arizona reported lower-than-expected population counts, leading to those states ending up with fewer House representatives than projected. And D.C., which had been projected to surpass the 700,000-population line, grew by 14.6 percent instead of 18.4 percent over the past decade.
The 2020 count faced unprecedented challenges, including underfunding, attempts by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question and exclude undocumented immigrants from the count, as well as natural disasters. The coronavirus pandemic was also a huge factor in the 2020 count, as door-to-door head counts were stalled due to shutdowns and populations, like college students, weren’t in the places they would normally be.
Early data leaves many wondering if the differences between projections and actual data may signal a bigger problem with the census count. Former attorney general Eric Holder, chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, is one of those questioning the data. He raised the possibility that the lower-than-expected numbers in Florida, Arizona and Texas could be due to an undercount of Hispanics resulting from the Trump administration’s handling of the census. “I just wonder if it had the impact of suppressing the count,” Holder said.
Despite the lower-than-expected numbers, some say the data is typical, although more information is needed.
“Nothing looked terribly outside of expectations or historical patterns,” said Chris Dick, founder of DA Advisors, an analytics consulting company, and former Census Bureau statistician and branch chief. “I don’t think we have enough information to say the census was flawed, but I don’t think we have enough information to say the census was a success.”