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.

Posts Tagged ‘illegal immigrants’

Book criticizes use of census to apportion House seats

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

The Hartford Courant reports that an upcoming book by a Connecticut population expert criticizes how the Census is used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the newspaper, a series of papers by Orlando Rodriguez, manager of the Connecticut State Data Center, form the basis of the book “Vote Thieves: Illegal Immigration, Congressional Apportionment, and Census 2010,” which is scheduled to be published this fall.

Rodriguez asserts that it’s unfair to use the raw head count to determine House seats, because it doesn’t account for non-voters and illegal immigrants:

But in “Vote Thieves,” Rodriguez argues that representation based on population size unfairly penalizes many Northeastern states and intensifies political polarization. The fundamental problem, Rodriguez says, is that states are given federal representation based on the total count of people there. Apportionment is not made according to voting turnout in states, and not according to those who are legal citizens.

This has two major effects, Rodriguez says. Apportionment by raw head counts hugely favors Southern border states at the expense of Northern and Midwestern states. Those Southern border states tend to have younger populations with low voter turnouts. But the generally older and high-voting populations of the North and Midwest are given fewer representatives and thus fewer votes in the House.

If voter turnout in the most recent presidential elections, instead of raw head counts, was used in assigning House seats, Rodriguez’s calculations show that Connecticut would actually gain a House seat.

It’s unlikely that we’ll see a shift in the way the census is used to determine Congressional representation soon, but Rodriguez makes some pretty interesting arguments against using the raw head count. If you buy Rodriguez’s claims, relying on voter turnout instead could give states an incentive to maximize voter turnout, reduce disenfranchisement and draw competitive legislative districts to draw in moderate voters. And it’s pretty hard to argue against at least taking a closer look at a method of determining House seats that might do that.

Counting on census controversy

Monday, January 4th, 2010

From a proposal to ask about citizenship on 2010 Census to a collaboration between Latino groups and evangelical churches to promote the census, we’ve seen a fair amount of controversy, well before census forms are distributed in March.

Audrey Singer, a senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution examines some of the controversies surrounding the upcoming census in an op-ed for CNN.com.

Much of the debate will center on meaning of “home,” she writes:

This coming census — the largest count of the U.S. population with more immigrants and minorities than ever — will be complicated further by the economic downturn and foreclosure crisis because many people are “doubling up” or otherwise living in temporary quarters.

The census questionnaire asks for a count of all people who live and sleep in the household “most of the time,” as of April 1, but not those who are living away at college or in the military or those who are living in a nursing home or who are in a jail, prison or detention facility. (They are counted separately from households.)

“Home” may have changed recently for those whose hardship leaves them little choice but to live with relatives or friends, however temporary that may be. “Home” for displaced residents of the Gulf Coast may be miles away from where they lived before the devastation that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita wrought in their communities.

“Home” for some immigrants is in U.S. communities even though they are not legally residing in the United States. And “home” may be in a prison or detention center in a state far away from the inmate’s hometown residence.

In the comments, let us know what you see as the most controversial parts of the 2010 Census.

No citizenship question on Census form

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

The 2010 Census will count all people living in the United States, including immigrants who are not citizens.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) proposed an amendement last month that would have required the Census Bureau to ask whether people were in the country illegally, and would have excluded illegal immigrants from the population counts.

Senate Democrats blocked the proposal this afternoon in a 60-39 vote. More from the AP:

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats Thursday blocked a GOP attempt to require next year’s census forms to ask people whether they are U.S. citizens.

The proposal by Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter was aimed at excluding immigrants from the population totals that are used to figure the number of congressional representatives for each state. Critics said Vitter’s plan would discourage immigrants from responding to the census and would be hugely expensive. They also said that it’s long been settled law that the apportionment of congressional seats is determined by the number of people living in each state, regardless of whether they are citizens. A separate survey already collects the data.

Census data is also used to distribute billions of dollars in federal aid.

“The current plan is to reapportion House seats using that overall number, citizens and noncitizens,” Vitter said. “I think that’s wrong. I think that’s contrary to the whole intent of the Constitution and the establishment of Congress as a democratic institution to represent citizens.”

If Vitter were successful — and if noncitizens were excluded from the census count for congressional apportionment — states with fewer immigrants would fare significantly better in the upcoming allocation of House seats.

State such as California and Texas would fare worse than they would under the current way of allocating seats, which under the Constitution is based on the “whole number of persons” residing in a state.