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US Census Bureau Announces Miscounts in 14 States

The error allowed Rhode Island to hold on to a House seat while Texas and Florida were shorted


Inaccurate recordings of the population of 14 states have caused an flawed distribution of seats in the House of Representatives.

Despite the discovery of the data’s inaccuracy, it is unlikely any changes will be made to remediate the federal government’s error.

The United States Census Bureau released its post-enumeration survey which acknowledged a number of errors in the latest census. 

The agency reported undercounting in the South region of the country, while the North region was overcounted. 

Moreover, the net coverage error rates for the regional measurements showed more incorrect measurements in 2020 than in the 2010 census. The 435 seats in the House of Representatives are divided among the 50 in accordance with their populations.

The census results are used to certify the number of seats in Congress each state is allotted for the subsequent decade in addition to being used in estimates for federal funding.

“No census is perfect,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Santos in a public webinar on May 19 following the report’s publication.

Achieving an accurate count for all 50 states and DC is always a difficult endeavor, and these results suggest it was difficult again in 2020, particularly given the unprecedented challenges we faced,” Santos said in a separate press release

Inaccurately low results in Arkansas (5.04%), Florida (3.48%), Illinois (1.97%), Mississippi (4.11%), Tennessee (4.78%), and Texas (1.92%) resulted in the loss of federal representation to which the states are entitled.

Florida, one of the nation’s fastest-growing states, gained one House seat following the 2020 Census. Based on the report, the state should have gained two seats, bringing its House delegation total to 29. However, the census missed over 750,000 residents.

Once regarded as a staple swing state, Florida is projected to lean toward the Republican party in upcoming elections, according to a survey from FiveThirtyEight.

In both Arkansas and Tennessee, 1 out of every 20 residents were missed by census counters. FiveThirtyEight estimates a 31.8 point Republican lean for Arkansas and a 29.6 point Republican lean for Tennessee.

Mississippi’s population did not shrink between 2010 and 2020 but instead grew by an estimated 120,000 people. Due to the Census’s original report, the state redrew its voting district. Mississippi is considered one of the most red states in the country, with a 20.3 point lean toward Republicans.

As a result of the 2020 census, Illinois lost one seat in Congress even though its population surpassed 13 million for the first time in the state’s history during the last decade. Illinois is considered a Democrat-leaning state.

The state’s redrawn districts were classified as a win for Democrats by Politico as lawmakers move to eliminate District 18, a red district that supported President Donald Trump during the last election.

Because its population was undercounted, Texas gained two House seats instead of the three its growing population warrants – increasing its delegation from 36 members to 40. The population grew by 15.9% between 2010 and 2020, reaching just over 29.14 million people. The Census Bureau missed around half a million people during its count.

While FiveThirtyEight still classifies Texas as a Republican-leaning state, its changing population has led political analysts to label it an emerging battleground for upcoming elections, including the 2022 midterms.

Delaware (5.45%), Hawaii (6.79%), Massachusetts (2.24%), Minnesota (3.84%), New York (3.44%), Ohio (1.49%), Rhode Island (5.05%), and Utah  (2.59%) were all found to be overcounted.

The Census Bureau overreported the population of Delaware by about 54,000 and of  Rhode Island by approximately 55,000. 

Even though Rhode Island’s population had been shrinking for years, the inaccurate census results meant the state held on to its two House seats when it should have lost one.

“We’re essentially the lucky beneficiary of a statistical anomaly,” John Marion, a member of the state’s census committee, told the New Canaan Advertiser. “And as a result, we’ll have more representation in Congress for 10 years.”

Delaware has just one congressional member and did not gain an additional member because of the data error. 

FiveThirtyEight classifies both Rhode Island (24 points) and Delaware (13.7 points) as Democrat-leaning states.

The Census Bureau reported that Hawaii’s population grew by 7.0%, or 94,970 people, in August of 2021. This change was almost entirely overreported according to the agency’s new report. Hawaii has an estimated 31.6 point lean in favor of Democrats.

Massachusetts’s population was overreported by 245,917 people. The state, which has had a completely Democratic delegation since 1996, lost a spot in Congress following the 2010 census. Because of the data reported in the last census, Massachusetts was able to retain its nine house seats.

New York lost one congression seat in 2020 following the census, decreasing its House delegation to 26 members. Its population was overreported by 611,249 and did not exceed the 20 million people that the Bureau reported

New York has not adopted a new map of its voting districts after a state judge threw out the districts created by lawmakers due to political bias.

Judge Patrick McAllister said on March 31 that the proposed districts continued extreme gerrymandering in favor of the Democratic party. The state is supposed to submit a new, fairer map by April 11.

New York is ranked as one of the top 10 most Democratic-leaning states in the nation by FiveThirtyEight.

Ohio also lost one seat in the House because of the 2020 census. The state’s new, redrawn voting district map made more regions in the typically red state contentious, according to Politico‘s analysis.

Ohio is a true swing state, voting 7 times for the Republican nominee, and 5 times for the Democratic nominee, in the past dozen presidential elections,” per U.S. News & World Report.

Utah was considered the fastest-growing state in the nation after the 2020 census. A Republican-leaning state, its population was overreported by approximately 85,000 people. This error did not change the state’s allotted federal representation and Utah will retain its four House seats.

Residents in Minnesota were overcounted by roughly 219,000. Another battleground state, the northern state narrowly supported President Joe Biden (52.4%) in the 2020 election over Trump (45.3%). At the time, its eight house seats were evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans.

According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, “nothing can be done at this point to change how many congressional seats are allocated among the states, and neither can the data used for redrawing congressional districts be adjusted.”

The bureau has attributed the inaccuracy to problems calculating the number of deaths and birth, duplications in records as well as natural disasters in certain regions of the country, making it harder for census workers to complete door-to-door surveys.

“I continue to be proud of the efforts of our career staff and appreciative of our community partners,” Santos said. “Their collective talent, tenacity, and dedication to our mission enabled us to achieve a much better count than many thought was possible.”

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