Source: Washington Monthly (Link)
Donald Trump’s most consequential legacy might be the debate he spurred about whether our democracy truly includes everyone, a choice evident in the 2020 election and Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination. Should public life in the United States be based on inclusiveness or on the hierarchy that prevailed for much of our history? That’s also the issue in the Trump administration’s hobbling of the 2020 census and how it distorted the current apportionment for the House of Representatives.
The large-scale errors in the census cost New York, Texas, Florida, Arizona, California, and New Jersey one seat each, and resulted in an extra representative for Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Montana, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
You may recall then Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s ham-handed scheme to include a question on citizenship status in the 2020 census. It was a ploy to depress minority participation, and it was batted down by the Supreme Court. But the bigger scandal was the census’s persistent funding shortfalls, understaffing, and truncated schedule. The result was the most error-riddled count in decades. The undercounting of Blacks and Hispanics and double counting of whites and Asians altered the allocation of congressional seats for the next decade.
Those wide-ranging errors are matters of public record, because the professionals at the Census Bureau obligingly report the decennial census undercount and overcount rates by race and ethnicity. Compared to 2010, undercounts in 2020 jumped from 2.06 to 3.3 percent for Blacks, from 1.54 to 4.99 percent for Hispanics, and from 0.15 to 0.91 percent for Native Americans on reservations and Alaskan Natives. Overcounts also shot up, increasing from 0.83 to 1.64 percent for whites and from virtually zero to 2.62 percent for Asians.