My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

The battle over Congressional redistricting has just begun…

A July 16th editorial in the Christian Science Monitor discusses the battle over congressional redistricting. The impact that 2010 Census data has on redistricting could be especially disturbing in light of recent concerns over the accuracy of this data:

All eyes are on the US House in this fall’s election, but that’s not the only place where a political earthquake might shake up power.

A mad scramble is also on to influence elections for state legislatures, as well as governors. National political bigwigs and big dollars – record amounts, actually – are focused on these local races.

The reason? This is a census year, and it is these newly elected officials who will use the new population numbers to redraw the boundaries of voter districts. Those districts will then set the contours of power and policy for the next decade.

Republicans see the opportunity for a long-lasting comeback in Washington if they can tip enough statehouses their way, and thus come up with voter districts likely to elect Republicans to Congress again and again. Likewise, Democrats are working hard to defend their mapping turf.

There would be nothing wrong with the mad scramble were it not for the fact that it’s scrambling American democracy. Many state legislatures and governors have gotten increasingly caught up in sophisticated “gerrymandering” of voter districts – shaping “safe” districts according to computer programs that reliably return incumbents to power.

Legislators are selecting their voters, instead of voters selecting their lawmakers.

The US Constitution requires redistricting after every census in order to make districts roughly equal in population, guaranteeing equal representation across the land. It leaves the method up to the states, though, and oh, the self-serving methods that many state politicians have chosen.

The party in power uses technology to account not only for population, but also voter registration data, voting patterns, and the addresses of incumbent lawmakers (in some cases, maps have been refigured so that an incumbent of the opposing party is drawn right out of his or her home district).

Thus are born districts that are no longer competitive, that don’t foster the free exchange of ideas, that hatch more extreme candidates who play to their home base, and that lead to hardened, immovable positions in elected bodies.

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3 Responses to “The battle over Congressional redistricting has just begun…”

  1. anon Says:

    Elizabeth, what percentage of the 2010 count is inaccurate?

  2. Anon Says:

    I suspect political gerrymandering is the prime force which sees this incredibly short census form waste precious space by separating Hispanic from the racial self-identification question. The politicians will be able to include or exclude, depending upon their parties, significant Hispanic populations via gerrymandering. This separation of Hispanic from the rest of the racial/ethnic groups also served to alarm and/or irritate many of the conservative whites enumerated – be they uber rich or redneck.

  3. Cincy Says:

    The ethnicity question has been on the short form since 1980, at which time it was combined with the race question, which has been there since 1850. In 2000 the two were separated in accord with OMB standards issued in 1997. http://www.census.gov/history/www/through_the_decades/index_of_questions/