An Accurate Census - This is Where Fair Redistricting Begins
Release Date: February 28, 2021
The U.S. Constitution requires that the U.S. Census Bureau conduct a census every ten years. This census must count all residents living in the U.S. (including the District of Columbia and the Island Areas).
The Census data is used at all levels of government for a variety of reasons. It determines the allocation of over $500 Billion in federal funds to states and communities for a wide range of public services. It determines how new district maps will be drawn to reflect everything from local school boards to county commissions. It determines the number of Representatives that each state has in Congress. It determines for whom we can vote for the next ten years.
Due to this extraordinary importance, it is essential that the U.S. Census Bureau be allowed to perform the census without political interference, without arbitrarily truncating schedules for political purposes, diminishing funding, or imposing conditions that do not meet the requirements of the Constitution.
Concerns about the accuracy of the 2020 Census have been percolating in the public arena. There was the attempt to add a citizenship status question to the Census - which was contrary to the Constitution and failed in the courts. This status question high-lighted a concern among residents about the safety in participating in the count and trust in the Census Bureau. In addition, fluctuating schedules and inadequate funding for the Bureau’s mission may have the unwanted result of not counting numerous people.
Census data determines the amount of federal funding at the local level. States, cities, and communities could lose federal funding resulting in a reduction of services or higher local taxes. The greater the population that a state or city reports, the more federal money it will receive to provide services to all residents, such as fire, emergency medical treatment, K-12 education, etc. Conversely, if the population is undercounted through inaccuracy or by eliminating groups of selected residents, states and cities will lose funding while still having to maintain these vital services to all residents.
Census data is required to draw new maps of state districts for state legislators. It is also used to draw new maps for local jurisdictions for city and county government.
Census data is used to apportion Congressional seats in the US House of Representatives by dividing the entire population of states by the total number of Representatives (now 435) with states gaining or losing representation based on population.
It should be noted that even though the entire population is required to be counted, federal law prohibits certain groups from voting. This includes children, certain immigrants, residents waiting naturalization, etc. Residents and citizens of the District of Columbia and Island Area can not vote for House Representatives.
The accuracy and fairness of the Census is the crucial first step to fair redistricting and drawing of governmental maps. Diluting or misusing of this data for political purposes results in the loss of a core democratic principle - one person, one vote.
Submitted by Mary Ann Reeves
Research included information from the Brennan Center for Justice, the Pew Research Center, and National Public Radio