Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Some states are spending millions to improve the census count, to preserve House seats and funding; some are not

Fearing undercounts in the 2020 census, 23 states have set aside millions of dollars to try to ensure  more accurate numbers in rural areas and other hard-to-count places. States whose citizens are undercounted could lose federal aid as well as U.S. House seats, both of which are calculated based on census data, Dartunorro Clark reports for NBC News.

Ensuring a higher census count "is oftentimes more important than voting," Diana Crofts-Pelayo told Clark. "At the end of the day, it’s about money and power." Clark is the communications chief for the California Complete County Committee, an advisory panel that seeks to improve the census count's accuracy.

"The confusion, fear and uncertainty generated by failed efforts of the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, as well as the Census Bureau's host of preparedness problems, have prompted states, cities and nonprofits to take matters into their own hands to avoid a decade-long mistake," Clark reports. "After the last census, for instance, more than 200 jurisdictions around the country challenged federal census figures."

Rural areas are at particular risk of being undercounted because next year's census will be conducted primarily online, and many rural residents lack high-speed home internet connections. 

Some states with large rural populations haven't allocated funding to ensure a better count. That includes Oklahoma, which has a history of undercounts, according to former state representative Joe Dorman. Dorman, the CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, told NBC that undercounts lead to tax increases because the state loses funding.

Dorman "said his organization has partnered with dozens of other nonprofits in the state to pool together resources and money to do outreach to the hardest citizens to count, which are often immigrant, rural or tribal communities as well as those who are skeptical of giving the government personal data," Clark reports.

Texas, which has many Latino, immigrant, and rural residents, also has not set aside funding to improve the count. "Some cities, such as Dallas and El Paso, have stepped up the census efforts," Clark reports. "But in places such as Fort Worth and other smaller and rural parts of the state, nonprofits are trying to backstop federal efforts with philanthropy dollars and their own budgets, as well as by rallying local leaders to encourage people to fill out the census."

No comments: