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.

Archive for the ‘Statistics’ Category

OMG! The United States Census Bureau has finally done something proactive, progressive, and, dare we say it, cool! We present the top 12 reasons the Census Bureau is now almost cool in 2012!

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

The top 12 reasons the US  Census Bureau is now almost cool in 2012

1. The Census Bureau has created an API.

2. The Census Bureau has created an API.

3. The Census Bureau has created an API.

4. The Census Bureau has created an API.

5. The Census Bureau has created an API.

6. The Census Bureau has created an API.

7. The Census Bureau has created an API.

8. The Census Bureau has created an API.

9. The Census Bureau has created an API.

10. The Census Bureau has created an API.

11. The Census Bureau has created an API.

12. The Census Bureau has created an API.

Here’s the deal in detail. If only they did this in 2008…

NYT: New York Census Data, Centuries Old, Is Now Online

Friday, July 27th, 2012

H/t to Sam Roberts at the New York Times for this (full article HERE):

What was Al Capone’s address? Where did Jonas Salk live? What did John D. Rockefeller list as his occupation? Whom did Franklin D. Roosevelt list as the head of his household in 1925?

The New York State Archives and Library has collaborated with Ancestry.com to provide searchable versions of the recently released 1940 United States census; New York State censuses from 1892, 1915 and 1925; and marriage, draft and other records dating to the 17th century.

Latinos not voting propotionally with their population gains…

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Here’s an interesting piece from Adam Nagourney of the New York Times.

 More than 21 million Latinos will be eligible to vote this November, clustered in pockets from Colorado to Florida, as well as in less obvious states like Illinois, Iowa, North Carolina and Virginia. Yet just over 10 million of them are registered, and even fewer turn out to vote.

In the 2008 presidential election, when a record 10 million Latinos showed up at the polls nationwide, that amounted to just half of the eligible voters. By contrast, 66 percent of eligible whites and 65 percent of eligible blacks voted, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center.

The 2010 Census was close, but not perfect…

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

According to the Associated Press, “The 2010 census missed more than 1.5 million minority members after struggling to count black Americans, Hispanics, renters and young men, but it was mostly accurate, according to an assessment released by the Census Bureau on Tuesday.”

This is sure to revive the controversial issue of whether statistical sampling can be used in the 2020 Census. Though minority groups likely have advocates for them in the form of organized advocacy groups, “young men” and “renters” will likely continue to be shortchanged when political decisions are made.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Sign this MyTwoCensus Petition: Ensure that the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey is not eliminated

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

UPDATE: Click HERE for the petition!

As the founder and executive editor of MyTwoCensus.com, I am astounded that the GOP, the political party that consistently claims to be pro-business, recently voted to nix an operation, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, that provides enormous sums of data that help American businesses.

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) is a career politician and a big fat idiot (who is apparently just as ignorantly conservative as his namesake fellow politician). If only he had more business experience, it’s doubtful that he would be calling the American Community Survey “intrusive,” “an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars,” “unconstitutional,” and “the very picture of what’s wrong in D.C.” (Ironically, it Webster’s salary that is a waste of tax payer dollars, intrusive, and what’s wrong in D.C.)

For those unfamiliar with the American Community Survey, it is, according to Wikipedia, “an ongoing statistical survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, sent to approximately 250,000 addresses monthly (or 3 million per year). It regularly gathers information previously contained only in the long form of the decennial census. It is the largest survey other than the decennial census that the Census Bureau administers.”

While the survey is currently listed as mandatory, I person has ever been prosecuted for not completing it. (Perhaps the Census Bureau should make it optional to appease critics.)

Yes, the Census Bureau should move to an online survey from its current paper-based system to save taxpayers significant sums of money (and put the US Postal Service one step closer to its grave), but that doesn’t mean that the treasure trove of data that will be lost is any less valuable.

As the Washington Post’s editorial board accurately wrote, “Every year, the Census Bureau asks 3 million American households to answer questions on age, race, housing and health to produce timely information about localities, states and the country at large. This arrangement began as a bipartisan improvement on the decennial census. Yet last week the Republican-led House voted to kill the ACS. This is among the most shortsighted measures we have seen in this Congress, which is saying a lot.”

The Post continues, “Businesses deciding whether to sell tractors or tricycles want to know how many people live in a given area, whether they mostly live in apartments or houses, with how many children, and how far they travel to work. Consumers then get access to goods and services they desire. Municipal planners determining whether to build a new senior center need to know where the elderly live in their town, and if they have family around to care for them. Government agencies targeting $400 billion in annual anti-poverty, health-care or highway spending require granular data on things such as local incomes. Lawmakers debating health-care policy should have up-to-date information on how many people are uninsured, and where they are concentrated.”

In response to this legislation, I have started a petition to alert the United States Senate of this unthinkably stupid legislation that has already been passed by the House of Representatives.

1940 Census results released by the Census Bureau after 72 years: Genealogists and history buffs rejoice

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

The Census Bureau swears to protect its data for 72 years. As such, today, the Census Bureau is releasing the 1940 Census results for the first time. The Census Bureau has provided a fairly simple mechanism for sorting through the basic information, with some pretty cool data visualization. And sites like MyTwoCensus.com advertising partner Ancestry.com (with over 1 billion 1940 Census records available) will surely be able to provide more in-depth results for users. (CBS News has provided some suggestions on how search for specific 1940 Census records.)

However, this data release is not without controversy. As The Washington Post writes:

The American Civil Liberties Union, for instance, has for more than 30 years opposed any unrestricted release of census records.

Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU, said harm could come from combining the rich 1940 Census data with other information.

“Computer technology today allows you to take information from different sources and combine it into a very high-resolution image of somebody’s life,” he said. “Each particular piece of information might just be one pixel, but when brought together, they become very intrusive.”

A document obtained from the National Archives by the Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that, in 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau raised privacy concerns about the disclosure of the 1940 Census by the nation’s record-keeper.

Census Bureau spokesman Robert Bernstein said in an e-mail that any fears the data could be used to harm anyone living today “such as through identity theft” were alleviated when the National Archives said that no birthdates or Social Security numbers would be in the records. One 1940 Census question asked a sample group of more than 6 million people whether they had a Social Security number but did not ask for the number itself.

We’d love to hear any comments from amateur or professional genealogists or family tree-makers about how you feel the Census Bureau’s data has assisted you (or, on the contrary, any problems that you may have had while trying to access information).

New York Redistricting Map Is Finally Here: The New York Times Makes It Interactive

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

As Congressional districts have been sliced and diced across New York, the New York Times created an easy-to-use interactive map detailing the changes. Enjoy it HERE!

More Americans with college degrees than ever before

Monday, February 27th, 2012

As GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum tries to appeal to voters by claiming that President Obama is a snob for proposing that all Americans should get a college education, he is apparently hitting home with the 70% of Americans who lack such a degree. Nonetheless, with more than 30% of Americans over the age of 25 now have a college degree, which is the highest percentage in American history. CNN explains it all right here.

Click here for the Census Bureau’s report on educational attainment in the United States.

The Free BlackBerry 2010 Census App

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Info-graphics bring statistics to life, and there’s no better way to dissect the 2010 US census on your BlackBerry device than Andrew Trice’s graphical take on the census. The most official of free BlackBerry apps enables you to navigate through info-graphics on census data for any US county. The 2010 US Census Browser app is perfect for you, whether you’re an enterprise-level BlackBerry user who’s seeking to analyze demographics for a given market or you’d simply like to know a bit more about your own county via the convenience of your BlackBerry.

Layout and Features

The 2010 US Census Browser app’s layout is both sleek and intuitive. Simply select a state from the app’s primary column, and then select the desired county from the secondary column. After selecting a county, its census data will be populated into the app’s main window. Here, you can filter out the census data by “Age Profile,” “Racial Profile” and “Household.” Each filter utilizes a different info-graphic template, either bar graphs or pie charts, to display the specified data type. Statistics are color coded to define subsets of data, like sex and marital status. The census app also features embedded Google Maps, which pinpoints the location of your targeted county.

Additional Information

The 2010 US Census Browser app is open-source code and distributed under the“Modified BSD License.” All of the app’s data is retrieved from the 2010 “Democratic Profiles” caches on the US Census Bureau’s website, while the app’s info-graphics are derived from HighCharts.com templates.

Note: This is a sponsored post from the makers of BlackBerry.

The 2010 Census makes an appearance on Glee

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The 2010 Census made a rare appearance on the hit TV series Glee.  According to Politifact, a fact-checking service run by the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times:

The plot of the Feb. 7, 2012, episode: Schuester enrolls in a night Spanish class taught by Ricky Martin’s character, David Martinez. (Yep, Mr. Schuester is a Spanish teacher whose Spanish es muy muy malo.)

Martin tells his students that they need to learn Spanish to function in the U.S. in the future: “Do you know that the U.S. Census believes that by 2030 the majority of Americans will use Spanish as their first language?” (Here’s a clip of Martin singing “Sexy and I know It” and “La Isla Bonita” on the episode.)  Schuester uses Spanish as the inspiration for his weekly assignment for the Glee Club: sing a song by a Spanish artist or that includes Spanish.

We decided to take a short intermission from politics to test Glee’s claim about whether the Census Bureau believes the majority of Americans will speak Spanish as their first language by 2030.

The result of the fact check:

The census projected that by 2030 there will be about 85.9 million Hispanics out of about 373.5 million people in the U.S., representing about 23 percent of the population. That projection is compared to about 16 percent of the population (49.7 million people) in 2010. So it’s true that the Hispanic population in the U.S. is on track to grow.

But the census projections are about the number of Hispanics — not how many people will speak Spanish as their first language at home.

Pennsylvania to use the 2000 Census for redistricting: WHY?

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Pennsylvanians are apparently living like its 1999. Here’s what the Courthouse News Service had to say:

In January, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said a 2011 redistricting plan establishing new districts based on fresh data from the 2010 census was unconstitutional.

That plan, proposed by the state’s five-person Legislative Reapportionment Commission, failed to adequately balance constitutional requirements that districts be compact, contiguous and roughly equal in population.

Of particular concern to the high court was a fourth requirement: that voting districts do not excessively fracture political subdivisions.

The state constitution says voting districts should divide counties, wards and municipalities only when absolutely necessary.

A group of 20 state senators who appealed the 2011 plan offered an alternative redistricting plan that, the group said, does a better job balancing these requirements, particularly when it comes to respecting the integrity of subdivisions.

In a 4-3 decision last month, the court called that plan “powerful evidence” that the commission could have done a better job balancing these factors, and remanded the plan to the commission for revision.

While the revisions are pending, the court directed Pennsylvania to govern its upcoming April 24 primary election with the 2001 redistricting plan, based on census data from 2000.

That directive prompted three federal lawsuits in late January and early February.

The plaintiffs – which include the majority leaders of the state Senate and House, the House speaker, and a Latino rights group – said it would be unconstitutional to use the old districts.

Canadian 2011 Census results: Will they be controversial?

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

The Vancouver Sun reports on the 2011 Canadian Census result, tabulated by Statistics Canada, more popularly, if there such a thing as popularity within a bunch of statisticians, known as StatCan. Though Canada is not typically known for controversy the 2011 Canadian Census caused quite a stir. But here’s the nitty-gritty:

Statistics Canada has now released the first installment of the data from the 2011 Census that took place in May of last year. These data relate to population and dwelling counts. Further installments of data related to age and sex of the population, families, households and marital status will be made available through the year.

From 1971 to 2006, the census included two parts: the short form and the long form. The short form included questions of a tombstone nature with the main objective being a head count. The long form included the remaining questions that were focused on getting respondents’ socio-economic information in areas such as the labour market, income, transportation, education, disabilities, housing, citizenship and ethnicity.

For the 2011 Census, the federal government decided to eliminate the long-form census that had 53 questions while maintaining the short form with eight questions. Two questions on language that were previously in the long form were added to the short form. Still being a census, the short-form questionnaire remained mandatory. The quality of the short-form data being released starting Wednesday, therefore, should be broadly as good as that released from the previous censuses.

Wednesday’s release showed that, on average, the Canadian population over the past five years grew 5.9 per cent to reach 33,476,688. Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Yukon and Nunavut posted above-average, and all other provinces and territories below-average, growth. The sources of population growth over the past decade have been two-thirds through immigration and one-third through natural increases.

 

The Census Bureau’s options for the 2010 Census form were inadequate

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

As the Associated Press has demonstrated, more than 1 in 14 Americans (21.7 million people) had to hand-write their race into the low-tech census form because the choices on the Census Bureau’s form weren’t adequate to cover America’s growing and diversifying population.

“More than 21.7 million — at least 1 in 14 — went beyond the standard labels and wrote in such terms as ‘Arab,’ ”Haitian,’ ”Mexican,’ and ‘multiracial.’”

Notes from a more integrated America: The 2010 Census shows that segregation is clearly on the decline

Monday, January 30th, 2012

A great piece from Sam Roberts at the New York Times today about how segregation is on the decline in America. Here’s a highlight:

The study of census results from thousands of neighborhoods by two economics professors who are fellows at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative research organization, found that the nation’s cities are more racially integrated than at any time since 1910; that all-white enclaves “are effectively extinct”; and that while black urban ghettos still exist, they are shriveling.

An influx of immigrants and the gentrification of black neighborhoods contributed to the change, the study said, but suburbanization by blacks was even more instrumental.

The progress was less pronounced between blacks and non-Hispanic whites, though, than it has been between blacks and nonblacks, including Asians and Hispanic people.

 

ProPublica: How Democrats Fooled California’s Redistricting Commission

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Note: This piece was originally published by ProPublica and has been republished with their consent and encouragement.

by Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson ProPublica, Dec. 21, 2011, 3:38 p.m.

This spring, a group of California Democrats gathered at a modern, airy office building just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. The meeting was House members only 2014 no aides allowed 2014 and the mission was seemingly impossible.

In previous years, the party had used its perennial control of California’s state Legislature to draw district maps that protected Democratic incumbents. But in 2010, California voters put redistricting in the hands of a citizens’ commission where decisions would be guided by public testimony and open debate.

The question facing House Democrats as they met to contemplate the state’s new realities was delicate: How could they influence an avowedly nonpartisan process? Alexis Marks, a House aide who invited members to the meeting, warned the representatives that secrecy was paramount. “Never say anything AT ALL about redistricting 2014 no speculation, no predictions, NOTHING,” Marks wrote in an email. “Anything can come back to haunt you.”

In the weeks that followed, party leaders came up with a plan. Working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee 2014 a national arm of the party that provides money and support to Democratic candidates 2014 members were told to begin “strategizing about potential future district lines,” according to another email.

The citizens’ commission had pledged to create districts based on testimony from the communities themselves, not from parties or statewide political players. To get around that, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of configurations that coincided with the party’s interests.

When they appeared before the commission, those groups identified themselves as ordinary Californians and did not disclose their ties to the party. One woman who purported to represent the Asian community of the San Gabriel Valley was actually a lobbyist who grew up in rural Idaho, and lives in Sacramento.

In one instance, party operatives invented a local group to advocate for the Democrats’ map.

California’s Democratic representatives got much of what they wanted from the 2010 redistricting cycle, especially in the northern part of the state. “Every member of the Northern California Democratic Caucus has a ticket back to DC,” said one enthusiastic memo written as the process was winding down. “This is a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated by advocates throughout the region.”

Statewide, Democrats had been expected to gain at most a seat or two as a result of redistricting. But an internal party projection says that the Democrats will likely pick up six or seven seats in a state where the party’s voter registrations have grown only marginally.

“Very little of this is due to demographic shifts,” said Professor Doug Johnson at the Rose Institute in Los Angeles. Republican areas actually had higher growth than Democratic ones. “By the numbers, Republicans should have held at least the same number of seats, but they lost.”

As part of a national look at redistricting, ProPublica reconstructed the Democrats’ stealth success in California, drawing on internal memos, emails, interviews with participants and map analysis. What emerges is a portrait of skilled political professionals armed with modern mapping software and detailed voter information who managed to replicate the results of the smoked-filled rooms of old.

The losers in this once-a-decade reshaping of the electoral map, experts say, were the state’s voters. The intent of the citizens’ commission was to directly link a lawmaker’s political fate to the will of his or her constituents. But as ProPublica’s review makes clear, Democratic incumbents are once again insulated from the will of the electorate.

Democrats acknowledge that they faced a challenge in getting the districts they wanted in densely populated, ethnically diverse Southern California. The citizen commission initially proposed districts that would have endangered the political futures of several Democratic incumbents. Fighting back, some Democrats gathered in Washington and discussed alternatives. These sessions were sometimes heated.

“There was horse-trading throughout the process,” said one senior Democratic aide.

The revised districts were then presented to the commission by plausible-sounding witnesses who had personal ties to Democrats but did not disclose them.

Commissioners declined to discuss the details of specific districts, citing ongoing litigation. But several said in interviews that while they were aware of some attempts to mislead them, they felt they had defused the most egregious attempts.

“When you’ve got so many people reporting to you or making comments to you, some of them are going to be political shills,” said commissioner Stanley Forbes, a farmer and bookstore owner. “We just had to do the best we could in determining what was for real and what wasn’t.”

Democrats acknowledge the meetings described in the emails, but said the gatherings “centered on” informing members about the process. In a statement to ProPublica, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, head of California’s delegation, said that members, “as citizens of the state of California, were well within their rights to make comments and ensure that voices from communities of interest within their neighborhoods were heard by the Commission.”

“The final product voted on by the Commission was entirely out of the hands of the Members,” said Lofgren. “They, like any other Californian, were able to comment but had no control over the process.”

“At no time did the Delegation draw up a statewide map,” Lofgren said. (Read Lofgren’s full statement.)

California’s Republicans were hardly a factor. The national GOP stayed largely on the sidelines, and individual Republicans had limited success influencing the commission.

“Republicans didn’t really do anything,” said Johnson. “They were late to the party, and essentially non-entities in the redistricting process.”

Fed-up voters create a commission

The once-a-decade redistricting process is supposed to ensure that every citizen’s vote counts equally.

In reality, politicians and parties working to advance their own interests often draw lines that make an individual’s vote count less. They create districts dominated by one party or political viewpoint, protecting some candidates (typically incumbents) while dooming others. They can empower a community by grouping its voters in a single district, or disenfranchise it by zigging the lines just so.

Over the decades, few party bosses were better at protecting incumbents than California’s Democrats. No Democratic incumbent has lost a Congressional election in the nation’s most populous state since 2000.

As they drew the lines each decade, California’s party bosses worked in secret. But the oddly shaped districts that emerged from those sessions were visible for all to see. Bruce Cain, a legendary mapmaker who now heads the University of California’s Washington center, once drew an improbable-looking state assembly district that could not be traversed by car. (It crossed several impassable mountains.)

Cain proudly told the story of the district, which was set up for one of the governor’s friends. Cain said he justified the odd shape by saying it pulled together the state’s largest population of endangered condors. “It wasn’t legitimate on any level,” Cain recalled.

The 2010 ballot initiative giving the citizen commission authority over Congressional districts was sold to voters as a game changer. Not surprisingly, it was strenuously opposed by California’s Democrats, who continue to control the Statehouse.

No fewer than 35 Democratic politicians 2014 including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi 2014 and their allies spent a total of $7 million to campaign against the proposition. The effort included mailings from faux community groups that derided the commission’s $1 million annual budget as “bureaucratic waste.” Despite this effort, Californians voted 61 percent to 39 percent to wrest federal redistricting from the hands of state lawmakers.

Immediately, Democrats began organizing to influence the citizen commission. There were numerous opportunities.

According to civics textbooks, the aim of redistricting is to group “communities of interest” so that residents in a city, neighborhood or ethnic group wield political power by voting together. The commission took an expansive view of this concept, ultimately defining a “community of interest” as anything from a neighborhood to workers on the same commute, or even areas sharing “intense beach recreation.”

This gave savvy players an opening to draw up maps that benefited one party or incumbent and then find 2014 or concoct 2014 “communities of interest” that justified them.

Democrats set out to do exactly that.

On March 16, members of the California delegation gathered at Democratic Party offices to discuss how to handle redistricting. They agreed that congressmen from the various regions of California 2014 North, South and Central 2014 would meet separately to “create a plan of action,” according to an email recounting the day’s events by Alexis Marks, the House aide. Among the first tasks, Marks wrote, was determining “how to best organize communities of interest.”

Democrats were already working “BEHIND THE SCENES” to “get info out” about candidates for the job of commission lawyer who were viewed as unfriendly. “I’ll keep you in the loop, but do not broadcast,” Marks wrote.

“The CA delegation has been broken down into regions that will be discussing redistricting at the member level,” read another party email from late March. “Members will be asked to present ideas on both issues” 2014 communities of interest and district lines 2014 “and will be asked to come to some consensus about how to adopt a regional strategy for redistricting.”

Over the next several weeks, California Democrats huddled with Mark Gersh, the party’s top mapmaking guru. Officially, Gersh works with the Foundation for the Future, a nonprofit whose declared goal is “to help Democrats get organized for the fight of the decade; the fight that will determine Democratic fortunes in your state and in Washington, D.C. for years to come: Redistricting!”

The foundation is well funded for this fight. Its supporters include longtime supporters of the Democratic Party: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees as well as the American Association for Justice (previously known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America). The foundation was launched in 2006 when Nancy Pelosi’s office worked with both groups to start it.

Neither Gersh nor participants would describe in detail what was discussed at the meetings. But from Marks’ emails and other sources, it is clear that California’s Democrats sat down together to discuss mutually agreeable districts that would protect incumbents.

The value of coordinating efforts to influence the commission cannot be overstated. If each Democrat battled separately for the best district, it was likely that one Congress member’s gain would harm countless colleagues. Creating Congressional districts is a lot like a Rubik’s cube: Each change reshapes the entire puzzle. The Democrats’ plan was to deliver synchronized testimony that would herd the commission toward the desired outcomes. If it worked perfectly, the commissioners might not even know they had been influenced.

Over the summer, Marks sent out more than 100 emails about redistricting, according to multiple recipients of the messages. According to House records, Marks earned $112,537 in 2010 in her post as deputy director of the California Democratic delegation. That makes her a federal employee. But although many of the messages were sent during the work day, a spokesman insisted Marks did so in her after-hours role as a political staffer for Democrats. They were sent from a Gmail account. Lofgren’s office did not make Marks available for comment, citing policy that staffers do not speak on the record. Instead, they pointed to Rep. Lofgren’s statement.

Federal employees are not allowed to do campaign work on government time, or use government resources, according to House ethics rules.

The emails alerted staff and legislators when the commission was scheduled to discuss their districts and they encouraged them to have allies testify to “community of interest” lines that supported their maps.

Marks told members they would be asked to raise money for a legal challenge if things didn’t work out. The delegation, she said, was working with Marc Elias, who heads an organization called the National Democratic Redistricting Trust. (The trust shares a website with The Foundation for The Future.)

Last year the trust persuaded the Federal Election Commission to allow members to raise money for redistricting lawsuits without disclosing how the money was spent, how much was raised, and who had given it.

The commission blinds itself

Back in California, the commission was getting organized. Its first task was to pick commissioners. The ballot initiative excluded virtually anyone who had any previous political experience. Run for office? Worked as a staffer or consultant to a political campaign? Given more than $2,000 to a candidate in any year? “Cohabitated” for more than 30 days in the past year with anyone in the previous categories? You’re barred.

More than 36,000 people applied. The state auditor’s office winnowed the applicants to a group of 60 finalists. Each party was allowed to strike 12 applicants without explanation. Then, the state used Bingo-style bouncing balls in a cage to pick eight commissioners 2014 three Republicans, three Democrats and two people whose registration read “decline to state” (California-speak for independent). The randomly selected commissioners then chose six from the remaining finalists to complete the panel.

The result was a commission that included, among others, a farmer, a homemaker, a sports doctor and an architect. Previous redistrictings had been executed by political pros with intimate knowledge of California’s sprawling political geography. The commissioners had little of that expertise 2014 and one of their first acts was to deprive themselves of the data that might have helped them spot partisan manipulation.

The law creating the commission barred it from considering incumbents’ addresses, and instructed it not to draw districts for partisan reasons.

The commissioners decided to go further, agreeing not to even look at data that would tell them how prospective maps affected the fortunes of Democrats or Republicans. This left the commissioners effectively blind to the sort of influence the Democrats were planning.

One of the mapping consultants working for the commission warned that it would be difficult to competently draft district lines without party data. She was overruled.

The lack of political data was “liberating,” said Forbes, the commissioner. “We had no one to please except ourselves, based on our best judgment.”

“I think,” he said, “we did a pretty good job.”

The commission’s judgments on how to draw lines, Forbes and others said, was based on the testimony from citizens about communities of interest.

“We were provided quite a number of maps from various organizations,” said another commissioner, attorney Jodie Filkins-Webber. If the groups were basing their maps on political data to favor one party, “they certainly did not tell us that.”

“Districts could have been drawn based on voter registration,” Filkins-Webber said, “but we would never have known it.”

The commission received a torrent of advice 2014 a total of 30,000 separate pieces of testimony and documents. Records suggest the commission never developed an effective method for organizing it all. The testimony was kept in a jumble of handwritten notes and computer files. The commissioners were often left to recall testimony by memory.

The difficulties in digesting and weighing the reams of often-conflicting testimony enhanced the value of people or groups who came bearing draft maps.

“Other people offered testimony; we offered solutions,” said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a powerful business group outside Los Angeles that persuaded the commission to adopt its Congressional map for the San Fernando Valley.

How Democrats locked down Northern California

Redistricting is a chess game for people with superb spatial perception. Sometimes, anchoring a single line on a map can make everything fall into place.

According to an internal memo, Democrats recognized early on that they could protect nearly every incumbent in Northern California if they won a few key battles. First, they had to make sure no district crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.Then, they had to draw a new seat that pulled sufficient numbers of Democrats from Contra Costa County into a district that included Republicans from the San Joaquin Valley.

The man with the most to lose was Rep. Jerry McNerney, who represented an octopus-shaped district that had scooped in Democrats from the areas east of San Francisco. McNerney’s prospects seemed particularly dismal. Early in the year, he made The Washington Post’s national list of top 10 likely redistricting victims.

Republicans moved first, attempting to create a district that would keep San Joaquin County whole and pick up conservative territory to the south. But then a previously unknown group calling itself OneSanJoaquin entered the fray.

OneSanJoaquin described itself as a nonprofit, but records show it is not registered as such in any state. It has no identifiable leadership but it does have a Facebook page, called OneSanJoaquin, created by the Google account OneSanJoaquin.

The page was posted in early April, just as the commission began taking testimony. Its entries urged county residents to download maps and deliver pre-packaged testimony.

On the surface, the OneSanJoaquin page seemed to be serving Republicans’ interests. But Democrats were one move ahead and understood that a united valley would inevitably lead to a Democratic-leaning district. (Republicans apparently did not understand that federal voting rights requirements ruled out their proposed district, since it would have interfered with the Latino district to the south. That misconception was encouraged by the maps on the OneSanJoaquin page, which were drawn to make this look possible.)

In fact, the only way to make a district with “one San Joaquin” was to pull in the Democrats in eastern Contra Costa 2014 the far reaches of San Francisco’s Bay-area liberals.

The author of OneSanJoaquin’s maps was not identified on the Facebook page, but ProPublica has learned it was Paul Mitchell, a redistricting consultant hired by McNerney.

Transcripts show that more than a dozen people delivered or sent the canned testimony to the commission, which accepted it without question. There’s no sign that commissioners were aware some of the letters had been downloaded from the mysterious OneSanJoaquin page.

After the commission finished, McNerney announced he was moving to the newly created San Joaquin district to run for re-election. It was a huge improvement for him. In 2010, he barely won his district, beating his opponent by just one point. If the 2010 election were re-run in his new district, he would have won by seven points, according to the Democrats’ internal analysis. (McNerney’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)

Summing up the story, an internal Democratic memo said the GOP had been decisively out-maneuvered “Their hope was to create a Republican Congressional seat,” the memo said. “Their plan backfired.”

“McNerney ends up with safer district than before,” Mitchell’s firm tweeted, after McNerney announced his candidacy in his new district. “Wow! How did he do that?”

An under-funded commission

While players attempting to influence the process were well funded, the commission struggled with a lack of time and money. They responded, in part, by reducing citizens’ opportunities for input.

The budget for the whole map drawing undertaking was just over $1 million. At first, the commission had its public hearings transcribed 2014 then the money ran out and they stopped.

The commissioners received $300 per day as compensation and were eligible for reimbursement of travel and out of pocket expenses. Most kept their day jobs at the same time they tried to juggle their roles as commissioners.

It was a grueling schedule, with 35 public hearings taking place over just three months. “I had three days off between” April and August, said Commissioner Filkins-Webber, who maintained her legal practice while serving. “I was working basically on average18 hours a day.”

The commissioners also had to deal with public anger. The Tea Party in California decided to use the hearings as a forum to protest the Voting Rights Act, for instance, and at one hearing got so rowdy that police intervened.

Experts hired by the commission to actually draw the maps were also overworked and underpaid. Half a dozen times the meeting transcripts contain references to map drawers working overnight to prepare maps.

Overwhelmed by the task at hand, the commission decided to essentially shut down public participation halfway through the process. After the first round of drafts, which were widely criticized and abandoned, the commission stopped releasing formal drafts. More importantly, commissioners stopped holding hearings, which meant the next draft was prepared without public input.

The commission moved its meetings to Sacramento, not far from where party bosses had once gathered in secret to set the lines. The commission’s meetings were webcast to the public. But only those with the resources and time could participate.

“You have to ask yourself, who has the money to send people up to Sacramento like that,” said Eugene Lee, voting rights project director at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, which was active in organizing grassroots participation in the redistricting process.

“We didn’t have the money to do that. No way.”

The commission released no further drafts. In July, it made public a “draft final.” Voters had two weeks to submit comments before it became final. Most of those comments came from insiders who had been closely watching the Sacramento meetings.

Southern California Democrats also win

For those who could stay engaged, the Sacramento phase of the commission’s work proved rewarding. One politician who benefited was Southern California Congresswoman Judy Chu.

When it appeared that Chu would get an unfavorable district late in the game, a group with ties to the congresswoman went before the commission in Sacramento and convinced the commissioners to draw a favorable map that included her political stronghold, a town called Rosemead. Chu enjoyed broad support in Rosemead, where she was first elected to the school board in 1992 and later served in the state assembly.

The group, which called itself the Asian American Education Institute, worked with Paul Mitchell, the same consultant who helped engineer the triumph of Northern California Democrats.

Records show that crucial last-minute testimony in favor of Chu’s district was delivered by Jennifer Wada, who told commissioners she was representing the institute and the overall Asian-American community. Wada did not mention that she lives and works as a registered lobbyist in Sacramento, 400 miles from the district, or that she grew up in rural Idaho, where most of her family still lives. Wada says she was hired by the institute to “convey their concerns about Asian and Pacific Islander representation” to the commission.

The second witness was Chris Chaffee, who said he was a consultant for the institute and an employee of Redistricting Partners, Mitchell’s firm.

Commissioners accepted this map without asking a basic question: Who, exactly, was the Asian American Education Institute representing?

The group’s tax records show it had no full-time employees. Its website is barebones, and clicking on the “get active” button on the home page leads nowhere, simply returning users to the home page.

There’s another interesting feature of the Web site: the domain name is registered to a man named Bill Wong, a political consultant who has worked on multiple Chu campaigns, as well as her husband’s successful bid for Judy Chu’s old state assembly seat. Chu paid Wong $5,725 for consulting work in 2010, FEC records show. Her husband, Mike Eng, donated $4,500 to the Asian American Education Institute in 2010 and 2011.

The institute, said Wong, “argued to keep communities of interest together. Since Rep. Chu has been a strong advocate for Asian communities, it would make sense for her to represent them.” Wong added that he “discussed redistricting with a number of Asian-American legislators.”

An email obtained by ProPublica shows Amelia Wang, Chu’s chief of staff, telling Chu and Bill Wong about testimony submitted by another Asian group, Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans for Fair Redistricting, which also intervened at the last minute to offer similar maps. In case that didn’t do the trick, Mitchell himself went before the commission, urging the commissioners to accept the maps submitted by the institute (his employer) and the coalition.

And that’s what the commission did, incorporating proposed lines for both groups and drawing a map that included Rosemead in Chu’s new district.

Wang told ProPublica that Chu’s office and the institute “did communicate about keeping communities of interest together, including Rosemead. However, Rep. Chu did not hire Bill Wong for redistricting or to testify on her behalf before the commission.”

“Rep. Chu has represented a united Rosemead city since 2001,” said Wang, “it would have been a tragic mistake to divide it.”

Though the process turned out well for Chu, it didn’t work out so well for the town of South El Monte.

To make room for Rosemead in Chu’s district, South El Monte 2014 85 percent Latino 2014 got bumped into another district across the mountains that is much less Latino, and much more affluent.

The town’s mayor, Luis Aguinaga, say the new lines “don’t make sense.” South El Monte is now split off from sister communities in the San Gabriel Valley 2014 including North El Monte and El Monte.

“We’re always on the same side, always fighting for the same issues,” Aguinaga said. “On this side of the San Gabriel Valley we have a voice. If we’re apart it will be much harder to be heard.”

Other communities lost, too.

Outside Los Angeles, residents of what’s known as Little Saigon begged the commission to undo what they saw as decades of discrimination and put the U.S.’s largest Vietnamese community together in one district. Instead, the community was split in two 2014 a result of testimony by supporters of Rep. Loretta Sanchez, including a former staffer and one of her wedding guests, to get her a safe district. A large section of Little Saigon ended up in a district with Long Beach, a town that is 1 percent Vietnamese.

“Residents who live in Little Saigon share the same needs, but if they’re in two different districts they may not be represented,” said Tri Ta, a City Council member from the area.

“This district is characterized by the Port of Long Beach,” the commission writes in its final report, “one of the world’s busiest seaports and the area’s largest employer.”

“It does not make sense to put the area known as Little Saigon in a district with Long Beach,” Ta said. “The two areas are distinctively different.”

“Congresswoman Sanchez believed strongly throughout the redistricting process that the population growth of the Latino community should be accurately reflected in the newly drawn congressional districts,” said Adrienne Elrod, Sanchez’s Chief of Staff, in a statement, “She’s glad that members of the Orange County community shared her views, and as a result, was pleased to see them take an active role.”

Paul Mitchell, the consultant whose work had such a large impact on the commission’s decisions, said voters benefited from the work done by him and others deeply involved in the process. The commissioners, he said, “knew some of the testimony was being fabricated by outside groups. But what were they to do? They couldn’t create a screen of all testimony and ferret out all the biases.”

The work he did on behalf of his diverse group of clients, he said, “created better maps 2014 regardless of if they came with the additional benefit of helping some local city, union, or incumbent that was the client,” Mitchell said.

“My only regret is that we didn’t do more.”

Corrections: This story originally stated that the Asian population of Long Beach was less than 1 percent. It has been corrected to say that the Vietnamese population of Long Beach is 1 percent. The story also previously stated that Rep. Judy Chu previously served as a state senator. In fact, she served in the state assembly. This story originally stated the commission worked for free, with a small stipend for expenses. It has been corrected to say, the commissioners received $300 per day as compensation and were eligible for reimbursement of travel and out of pocket expenses.

 

I would like to think that MyTwoCensus.com had some role in initiating these reforms…

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

After two years of reporting on waste at the US Census Bureau, I was very happy to receive the following public relations announcement from the Census Bureau today. However, I do hope that the federal government will find new employment for those people who lose their jobs as a result of this organizational shakeup:

As a valued stakeholder to the Census Bureau, we want to inform you about
some key changes we are making in order to be a prudent steward of the taxpayers’
money and fulfill our mission to provide the country important statistical information.
Today, we are announcing a realignment of our national field office structure and
management reforms designed to keep pace with modern survey collection methods
worldwide and reduce costs by an estimated $15 – $18 million annually beginning in
2014.

Over the next 18 months we will transition to a new supervisory structure to
manage some almost 7,000 professional interviewers. The changes will result in
permanently closing six of our 12 Regional Offices and a reduction of the national field
workforce of about 115-130 positions. Most of the reductions will happen through
attrition, early retirements, or transfers to vacant jobs at Census headquarters or
elsewhere.

The six Regional Offices that will close are Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit,
Kansas City and Seattle. The six Regional Offices that will remain open are Atlanta,
Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.

Advances in technology have allowed survey organizations to provide better
tools to their field interviewers and move to a leaner management structure. More
“virtualization” of supervision using more timely management information can yield both
cost and quality advantages. We want to keep pace with these innovations.

Our professional field interviewers are the front line of producing the nation’s vital
statistics about our economy, our communities, and our households. We owe it to the
nation to constantly improve our processes and become more efficient.

More than 20 percent of the interview workload involves conducting surveys for
other federal statistical agencies. Our customers are confronting tighter fiscal budgets
as well, and have challenged us to improve our systems. Indeed, the nation depends
upon us to slow the cost inflation in our survey work if we are to maintain the highest
quality statistics.

As we go through this transition over the next 18 months, our Regional Office
employees who are affected by this realignment are our first priority.

The closing of six Regional Offices was a difficult decision and one that will
produce disruption and pain in the lives of our colleagues in those offices. We are
committed to employ all methods legally possible to reduce the negative impact of this
change on our affected employees.

2010 Census news roundup…

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Hi everyone, it’s been a long time. Unfortunately, life has made it such that MyTwoCensus.com isn’t my #1 priority at this moment, but that doesn’t mean that the impact of the 2010 Census is any less pertinent. In fact, there has been tons of news lately about the 2010 Census. Some key stories that I’ve been following:

1.  As I would have predicted, specifically in the case of New York, where I identified myriad problems with 2010 Census operations, the city is disputing its 2010 Census numbers as it will likely be missing out on a ton of federal funding ($3,000 per resident not counted per year). Here’s some info.

2. Despite its inflated advertising budget (don’t forget that bomb of a Super Bowl ad), the Census Bureau’s 2010 Census ad campaign is winning awards…but again, these are industry awards created by the industry, for the industry, so don’t take them too seriously. When you compare the amount of ad dollars spent in 2000 vs. 2010 to the participation rates, it is clear that 2000 was a better performance proportionally.

3. This shouldn’t be a major shock, but America’s demographics are  CHANGING. While the surge of Hispanics was expected, people didn’t expect the number of Asians in America to be growing so quickly. Here’s some info.

4. Minorities are moving to the suburbs and whites are moving to the cities, reversing trends that started in the post-war era. This is very interesting.

5. The GOP’s (Republican Party) success in the 2010 Elections may translate to redistricting success. Here’s a look at how the GOP won big in the 2010 Census.

On a more positive note, I have become quite interested in genealogy in recent months and I can tell you that US Census records have been invaluable in tracing my family’s history. In this sense, I am quite happy and proud that my family participated in the 2010 Census, because maybe, long after I’m gone, a future generation will be able to access information and learn about life in the year 2010.

Census: Learning Lessons from 2010, Planning for 2020

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Editor’s note: I’m currently in London where the UK’s 2011 Census is now underway. A 2011 UK Census form came in the mail a few days ago and I have also seen numerous billboards around town telling residents that they can complete the 2011 Census online. If only America would have been able to get its act together for an online 2010 Census…Of course, Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves will state at this hearing that he is exploring options for how to put the 2020 Census online. This is a complete no-brainer…

***Media Advisory***

HEARING: “Census: Learning Lessons from 2010, Planning for 2020″

WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, will hold a hearing titled “Census: Learning Lessons from 2010, Planning for 2020″ on Wednesday, April 6, 2011, at 1:30 p.m. in room 342 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

The purpose of the hearing is to identify lessons learned from the 2010 Census, identify technological advances that can be used to improve data quality and reexamine areas that could help produce a more cost-effective 2020 Census. The hearing will also assess recent developments with the American Community Survey, an ongoing statistical survey that produces demographic information.

“Planning for the 2020 Census is already underway, so it is time for us to start considering how we can improve upon the 2010 Census,” said Sen. Carper. “I’m particularly interested to learn about how existing technology can be incorporated into the 2020 Census. As we embark upon a decade’s worth of extensive research and preparation, we will begin with this hearing by identifying a few of the initiatives that show promise for producing an accurate and cost-effective 2020 Census.”

For more information or to watch a live stream of Sen. Carper’s hearing, please click HERE.

WHAT:

U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security Hearing “Census: Learning Lessons from 2010, Planning for 2020″

WHEN:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

1:30 p.m.

WHERE:

342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C.

WITNESSES:

Panel I:

The Honorable Robert Groves

Director

U.S. Census Bureau

U.S. Department of Commerce

Mr. Todd Zinser

Inspector General

U.S. Department of Commerce

Mr. Robert Goldenkoff

Director, Strategic Issues

U.S. Government Accountability Office

Panel II:

Mr. Daniel Castro

Senior Analyst

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Dr. Thomas Cook, Ph. D.

Committee on National Statistics

The National Academies

Mr. Arturo Vargas

Executive Director

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials

The latest from the Inspector General’s office…

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

We failed to post a piece from the Inspector General about the Census Bureau’s “partnership” programs that MyTwoCensus criticized heavily for its lax spending procedures. Check out the November 18, 2010 report HERE.

And if you turn to page 20 of this Inspector General’s office document that was released on December 20, 2010,  you will find an update on recommendations being made for the 2020 Census.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

2010 Census data now available…

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Have a field day folks!

And the big winner is Texas. Ohio and New York are the biggest losers…Are the many critiques from MyTwoCensus of the counting process in NYC now being proven valid?