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 ‘Pennsylvania’

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.

Today’s strange news…this time from Pittsburgh, PA

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

(For the full story from thepittsburghchannel.com click HERE)

BURRELL TWP., Pa. — State police have charged an Indiana County man with assault, saying he attacked two teenage census workers.

According to police reports, 18-year-old Austin Kwisnek and a female juvenile were collecting data for the U.S. Census when Timothy Cowan chased them from his property on Hebenthal Lane in Burrell Township.

Video: Watch Marcie Cipriani’s Report

Police said Cowan, 43, proceeded to follow the workers’ vehicle down the road after they left.

At one point, the workers’ vehicle went off the side of the road and Cowan went up to Kwisnek’s window and grabbed him by the shirt and neck, police said. According to the police report, Cowan then threatened to punch the girl in the face and used “vulgar” language toward her.

Language problems with the 2010 Census may lead to changes in reapportionment

Monday, May 17th, 2010

The following article from the Bellingham Herald is very well written and paints a vivid picture of the problems I have discussed about poor translation services and more:

By DANIEL C. VOCK – Stateline.org

WASHINGTON Upstate New York took in nearly 3,200 refugees during one recent year. That was nearly seven times as many as New York City did. The refugees, more than half of whom came from Myanmar, often need medical care and other social services, but the region does not have the same informational resources – such as translators and English-language classes – as New York City. To help them get those services, upstate hospital officials and other advocates want them recorded in the 2010 census and have helped spread the word to refugees.

It’s not an easy job, but it’s a potentially important one. The refugees from Myanmar who live in the county that includes Rochester, N.Y., speak six different dialects, making the task of finding a translator who understands medical terms even more difficult. When refugees do visit a doctor or the hospital in the Rochester General Medical Group, says Jim Sutton, who heads the group’s office of community medicine, their appointments last longer because of the language barrier and complications related to the fact that refugees often went years without any health care.

An accurate population count could highlight that need to government officials, Sutton says. “Politicians want to represent their constituencies. We have 8,000 refugees in our area. … If a representative saw that much of their population was voting members of their particular area, their ears may perk up a little bit when something comes before them regarding language.”

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This is the kind of small but ultimately significant problem state and local officials are wrestling with all over the country.

Minnesota state demographer Tom Gillaspy knows how important the census count is for his state. He’s done the math himself. The once-a-decade tally is used for many things, but one of the most important is deciding how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House. According to Gillaspy’s latest projections, Minnesota could lose a seat by fewer than 1,000 people.

“It doesn’t get much closer than that,” muses Gillaspy, now involved in his fourth census for Minnesota. Miss just two college dorms – say, by counting them in June instead of April – and there goes the state’s eighth congressional seat.

“It is a huge operation to do a census. It is just an enormous, enormous thing. I don’t think people appreciate the precision which is required,” Gillaspy says. “It’s really at the core of everything that’s done in government and, to a large extent, in the private sector for an entire decade. So it better get done right.”

To the surprise of many, quite a few things are going pretty well this time. Across the country, 72 percent of residents have mailed in their census forms already. That’s roughly the same percentage that turned in their forms in 2000, which ended a three-decade slide in participation. That’s a good sign, according to experts, because the mail-in participation rate is a good indicator of how accurate the final count will be.

Experts credit several changes over the past decade for making it easier to educate residents about the census.

Perhaps most striking is the publicity blitz that promoted the mail-in portion of the census and continues now that 635,000 workers are going door-to-door to check with people who didn’t return their forms. The first big splash in the campaign was a much-maligned Super Bowl ad, but it was only the beginning. By the time the campaign is over, the U.S. Census Bureau plans to spend a record $133 million on advertising in 28 languages.

Behind the scenes, the federal government placed a greater emphasis on partnering with local organizations to get the message out. State and local governments have used a similar approach. Stacey Cumberbach, the head of New York City’s 2010 census office, says working with trusted leaders in different communities and across city government has helped the city boost its mail-in rates from 57 percent a decade ago to 60 percent this year.

Working with the city’s agency for public and subsidized housing helped get the message to one out of 12 New Yorkers, she says. Immigrants make up more than one-third of the city’s population, but that population in itself is very diverse. That’s why, Cumberbach says, it was so important for the city to rely on community leaders to promote the census.

In Minnesota, Gillaspy took advantage of a few other opportunities offered for the first time by the Census Bureau. In February, the state compared the numbers of addresses it had on its list for every block against the census’ count. Where there were big differences, the state asked the Census Bureau to double check its list of addresses.

Later this summer, Minnesota officials plan to compare state data for the capacity of group quarters – including prisons, nursing homes, halfway homes and dormitories – against the population count the census came up with in those facilities. If there’s a large difference, the Census Bureau will go back to recount the population there.

“It’s up to each individual state to volunteer to do this,” Gillaspy says. “I’m not aware that all states are doing this, but we certainly are.”

Gillaspy says Minnesota’s efforts during this cycle are more involved than they were a decade ago and far exceed the state outreach during the 1980 and 1990 headcounts. The Legislature approved funding for a three-year effort, and it can pay for itself by successfully counting even a relatively small number of people, he says.

Still, Kim Brace, the head of the consulting firm Election Data Services, is worried that some states have cut back on their outreach efforts to save money during this recession. He predicts, for example, that California will suffer because it couldn’t afford to better promote the census.

On the other hand, Brace says, technology has improved the amount of interim census data available to the public during the count.

“Ten years ago, we were lucky to have just to have an overall county-level count of the response rate at this time,” he says. “Now we’ve got it at the (census) tract level. That’s phenomenal.” Practically speaking, Brace says, that lets elected officials or community leaders check with the Census Bureau’s online maps to determine which areas are falling behind and respond immediately.

People who didn’t turn in their forms are less likely to answer the door when a Census worker comes knocking, explains New York City’s Cumberbach. And even if they do talk, she says, they may not provide accurate information.

In New York City, six people may share a one-bedroom apartment. Or a family of immigrants may include some people who are in the country legally and some who are not. “It’s almost like everyone has something in their home that they don’t want to share or that they’re nervous about,” Cumberbach says.

Neighborhoods with the lowest mail-in participation rates tend to have more blacks and more Hispanics than areas that turned in a bigger share of their forms, according to an analysis by the City University of New York. The 5 percent of neighborhoods with the lowest response rates were, on average, 54-percent minority. The rest of the country as a whole is 30-percent minority.

When it comes to states, many of those most in jeopardy of losing U.S. House seats – a number of them clustered around the Great Lakes – had some of the best response rates in the country. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia topped the charts.

This is especially important because the housing crisis has slowed the population growth of many Sun Belt states, and because many of those states also have below-average census response rates. Arizona, Texas, Nevada and Georgia all were expected to gain seats, but each had 70 percent or lower mail-in participation rates.

An inaccurate headcount can cost communities more than just political clout. A study by a census oversight board following the 2000 count said the country’s 58 largest counties would lose out on a combined $3.6 billion over the decade in funds distributed by population formula, more than $2,900 per person.

“Every person missed,” says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, “is that much less federal resources for everything from schools and medical services to resources to pave the streets.”

News from the Keystone State: Pennsylvania Update

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Two interesting stories from Pennsylvania…one from each side of the state:

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, a story about how now deceased Rep. John Murtha’s House of Reps. seat will likely disappear:

The candidate who succeeds the late Rep. John P. Murtha (D., Pa.) in a special election this spring might not want to buy a home in Washington.

That’s because demographers estimate that Pennsylvania will lose at least one seat in the decennial reapportionment of House seats among the states after the 2010 Census – and some political analysts believe the 12th District would be an easy target for state lawmakers reshuffling boundaries before the 2012 elections.

Murtha’s district, which looks somewhat like a crustacean spread over parts of nine counties, was itself gerrymandered into existence to save his job a decade ago, after the Census determined that Pennsylvania would lose two representatives because of sluggish population growth relative to other states.

Even Republicans – who then controlled the state House, Senate, and governor’s office – did not want to lose Murtha or the billions of dollars he steered to Pennsylvania as chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee in charge of defense spending.

Murtha, who died at 77 of complications from gallbladder surgery, was buried Tuesday in Johnstown.

From the Philadelphia  Daily News, an article about redistricting within the city of Philadelphia:

IT HAS BEEN almost 10 years since the last redistricting battle was slugged out in City Council, but the wounds are still raw.

That fight, which centered on the Latino composition of upper North Philly’s 7th District and pitted the mayor against the Council president, dragged on so long that Council members went nearly five months without pay.

The final 10-district map featured three twisted, elongated districts that practically define gerrymandering. And during the period without pay, Councilman Rick Mariano took bribes to cover his bills – a decision that landed him in the clink.

“For my colleagues, every time you mention redistricting it’s like a bad toothache,” said Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who represents the 7th District.

Unsurprisingly, much of Council isn’t exactly excited about revisiting the issue. But next spring, after the 2010 census, they’ll have to redraw the district lines again based on the new population numbers.

The current districts were drawn so each would have about 150,000 residents – or about 10 percent of the city’s population in 2000 – but population shifts inevitably change those numbers, forcing the decennial remap.

After the census numbers are released April 1, 2011, Council must pass a plan and get mayoral approval within six months. If it misses that deadline, Council members’ pay will be withheld – as stated in the Home Rule Charter – which has happened the last two times.

Former Councilman Angel Ortiz, who served as an at-large member during the 1991 and 2001 redistricting debates, said members should buckle their seat belts.

“Rick Mariano threatened to throw me out the window last time,” Ortiz said. “I think it’s going to be a struggle. I think a lot of friendships on City Council may be frayed at the end of this.”