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Census misses may have cost Florida and Texas in redistricting

Michael Macagnone, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — Census miscounts in Texas and Florida may have been big enough to cost those states a congressional seat this decade, and may have helped states such as Rhode Island keep a seat, according to data in a Census Bureau report released Thursday.

The report estimated how much the 2020 census either overcounted or undercounted the total population in each state and showed the count largely was accurate in all but 14 states. However, the bureau found the count varied by as much as 5% in states like Arkansas, Florida, Texas, New York and Minnesota.

In Florida, for example, the census missed an estimated 3% of its overall population. The state gained one congressional seat based on the census results, but fell short of getting a second additional seat by 171,000 people, or less than 1% of its population.

The census missed an estimated 1.9% of the population in Texas, which missed out on a third new congressional seat by less than 1% of its population.

According to population projections the Census Bureau released before the count, Florida had been expected to gain two congressional seats and Texas had been expected to gain three.

Tim Kennel, Census Bureau assistant division chief for statistical methods, said the report results were “in line with past censuses” and would help inform efforts to make the 2030 count more accurate. The agency does not plan to use Thursday’s report on state miscounts to correct the apportionment and other results already released.

 

An overcount means there were more people tallied than actually live in the state, while an undercount means there were fewer counted than actually live there.

The Census Bureau estimated the amount of an overcount in eight states: 5.4% in Delaware, 6.7% in Hawaii, 2.2% in Massachusetts, 3.8% in Minnesota, 3.4% in New York, 1.4% in Ohio, 5% in Rhode Island and 2.5% Utah.

At the same time the agency estimated the amount of an undercount in another six states: 5% in Arkansas, 3% in Florida, 1.9% in Illinois, 4.1% in Mississippi, 4.7% in Tennessee and 1.9% in Texas.

Those misses contributed to the most inaccurate census in decades, which is used to determine congressional districts and guide more than $1.5 trillion in federal spending annually. In a national report released earlier this year, the agency had historic undercounts of minority populations, including missing nearly one in 20 Hispanic residents. Agency officials have argued the count is still accurate enough to be used.

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