New York loses seat in Congress — by 89 people

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NEW YORK — New York will lose one seat in Congress as a result of national population shifts, according to census data released Monday – a loss that might have been avoided if just a few dozen more people in the state had been counted.

The state’s population grew by more than 4% over the past decade, according to the 2020 census, but that increase didn’t keep pace with larger gains in other parts of the country.

The final calculation of winners and losers in the race for representation was incredibly close. If just 89 more people had been counted in New York, it would have held on to all 27 of its current seats in congress, according to Kristin Koslap, senior technical expert for 2020 Census Apportionment.

“There were 435 seats. The last seat went to Minnesota and New York was next in line,” Koslap said in a news conference announcing the change. “If you do the algebra equation that determines how many they would have needed, it’s 89 people.”

The census, held once every decade, took place as New York was getting ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of people in the state died while the count was ongoing.

New York is one of seven states losing a member of congress as a result of the 2020 census. Five states will gain one seat in congress. Texas will gain two.

Overall, the census found about 20.2 million people living in New York last year, up from just under 19.4 million in 2010. New York is the fourth most populous state, behind California, Texas and Florida.

New York stands to lose out on more than political clout: The census also determines the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding each year.

New York City, for example, gains $7,000 a year for every household with more than two people, the city’s 2020 census director, Julie Menin, said in October.

Deploying ads, text messages, phone calls and celebrities, New York state and local officials exhorted residents last year to participate in a count that unfolded amid the coronavirus pandemic and court fights over various aspects of the Trump administration’s conduct of the census. That included an ultimately unsuccessful effort to exclude people living in the country illegally.

“This is literally one of the most important things that’s going to happen to New York City in a long time, whether we can maximize this census count or not,” Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said last summer.

Ultimately, the state’s census “self-response rate” – households answering by phone, internet or mail – was a bit over 64%, around the same as in 2010, Census Bureau data show. The national rate was 67%.

While the loss of at least one seat was expected in New York, the political world has been in some suspense over whether it might lose two in next year’s congressional elections.

“We’ve lost two or more seats every Census since 1950. This is a break in the trend line that’s positive for New York. We’re not losing as much clout as we have in prior cycles,” said Dan Lamb, lecturer in Cornell’s Institute for Public Affairs.

Jeffrey M. Wice, an adjunct professor at New York Law School who is an expert in census law and redistricting, said it was too early to tell whether the pandemic kept some people in the state from being counted, like people who were in the process of fleeing urban areas or college students who left campus.

He said another factor could be anti-immigration polices during the years Donald Trump was president.

“New York gained population before Trump took office. Trump closed the gates to immigration. And that certainly hurt,” he said.

It’s not yet clear how voters’ districts will change. That process hinges on more detailed census data that isn’t expected until August, at the earliest.

Traditionally, state lawmakers and governors have redrawn voting districts for seats in the U.S. House and state legislatures. But some states, including New York, have shifted that job to special commissions or made other changes intended to reduce the potential for partisan gerrymandering.

In New York, voters approved a 2014 ballot proposition that calls for a 10-member commission to draw districts for the U.S. House and the state Legislature. The maps will be submitted to the Legislature for approval.

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