When I heard that New York State was to lose a Congressional seat after the next reapportionment, it didn’t particularly upset me. The projections from months ago had suggested the possibility of the state losing one or even two seats.
UNTIL I heard that if the state had counted 89 more people, and the other numbers had stayed the same, the number in New York would have stood pat. Minnesota would have lost a House seat.
THEN it hurt. I mean almost physically pained me. I took it personally. I’d spent months trying to plug the Census. Then I WORKED the Census as an enumerator for six or seven weeks. I was SO invested.
Put in your favorite sports cliche here. US football last play of the game, down 4 points, and the running play stops three inches shy of the goal line. Two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning in baseball, down one, runner on base, and the blast from the batter is caught at the fence. The basketball three-pointer to win hits the rim and bounces away.
I Heart NY
New York was the 32nd fastest-growing state in the nation. The US gained 7.4% overall. With 20,201,249 residents, NY’s count was 4.2% higher than in 2010. But the New York delegation will fall from 27 to 26 members of the House of Representatives.
BTW, the US saw the lowest overall population growth since the Great Depression. “Experts say that paltry pace reflects the combination of an aging population, slowing immigration, and the scars of the Great Recession more than a decade ago,” reports the Associated Press, “which led many young adults to delay marriage and families.”
Incidentally, these pieces may be of interest:
A Preliminary Analysis of U.S. and State-Level Results From the 2020 Census.
How the Census Bureau Unduplicated Responses in the 2020 Census.
As I’ve recently noted, I’m one of tens of thousands of temporary Census enumerators working during the past few months. I’ve learned quite a lot, actually. My wife said I just took the job so I’d have something to blog about. While that’s not technically true, the experience has gotten the brain working.
I’ve been working in Albany County so far. One of the things I have discovered is that I’ve gotten to really see houses I’d never actually looked at before. Some are only a mile or two from my home. Some blocks have a thematic design, while others have a crazy-quilt feel. And oddly, I love them all.
What I don’t love, because I’m getting old, are narrow and/or steep stairs. Or handrails that move. On the first day, I walked the route because most of the houses individually were within walking distance. But the collective toll is that my feet ached for hours.
The solution was to take the bicycle. It’s been great, especially when I have to go three blocks to that next cluster of houses. I’ve discovered putting my Census valise and bike lock in my backpack is the way to go. And while I might get a little wet when it rains, my Census material does not. And I can put the bike on the bus to get to those locations that are a bit farther away.
Packing for the day
There are several items I must carry, in addition to various forms. One is a mask. Because I’m paranoid about losing it, I often carry three or four. I need my badge.
The device we use to get our list of houses to visit is an iPhone. I’ve never owned one. But my current Android rather sucks. When I needed to reboot my iPhone, I was told to turn the volume up and down thrice and turn it off, then on; it worked! The stylus is also preferable to using my fingers. But then I read stories like this and say, maybe not.
They’ve stopped teaching civics
I’ve discovered that a number of people don’t know what the Census is. This is despite ad campaigns and local advocates. I just saw a CDTA bus flash, “Please fill out the Census.” It determines the number of members of the House of Representatives for each state, among many other things.
I have explained how we have counted nearly all the people in the country since 1790; it’s in the Constitution. And that the information is by law confidential, not to be shared with the police, IRS, FBI, CIA, ICE, even the USPS.
Can I get a proxy
One of the difficulties of doing the Census in September when Census Day is April 1 is that people move. After a number of failed attempts, we are required to try to find other people to provide information. Sometimes it’s the landlord or the real estate agent.
One of my friends worried that people might lie about their neighbors. It has been my experience that the neighbors are in the main reluctant to share, or simply do not know.
WAY back in May or June 2019, right before I retired, I applied to work Census 2020. I heard nothing. I visited a Census recruitment table in the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library shortly before the COVID shutdown, sometime earlier this year. The representative said, “Don’t worry about it They’re still in process.”
Then the pandemic hit. So I didn’t know what this was going to mean for the process. When I worked the 1990 Non-Reponse Followup or NRFU, I began in late April. Then in early June, I got a phone call. After asking me a few questions, the gentleman said I was in.
On June 12, I got an email. “We are pleased to confirm your acceptance of a temporary position with the US Census Bureau as an Enumerator. Working in the field, Enumerators visit households that haven’t responded to the 2020 Census, speaking with residents to collect 2020 census data. Your employment is dependent upon successfully clearing a background investigation.”
“You are required to do the following!” I needed to “Schedule a Fingerprint Day appointment to be fingerprinted within 7 days of this letter… Please note: The action item above is time-sensitive.” I was to “bring ALL of the listed documents to your scheduled appointment, or you will not be fingerprinted.
Another bad photo ID
“Employment Confirmation E-mail attachment with barcode – Display this attachment via an electronic device OR print a hard copy of the attachment.” Naturally, I brought BOTH. They wanted two forms of ID; the list had a great deal of detail. My passport and my DMV card were acceptable.
“As part of appointment, your photo may be taken so that a badge may be created if you successfully complete the background check process and are hired. Pose and expression: Have a neutral facial expression or a natural smile, with both eyes open. Face the camera directly with full face in view.” I couldn’t wear glasses, a hat or head covering, unless I had a medical reason. It was not my favorite picture of me.
“As a Census Selectee you are subject to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint-based Criminal History Record Check for the purpose of making a security determination. If you have a criminal history record, you will be afforded an opportunity to complete or challenge the accuracy of the information in the record, or decline to do so.” After I cleared the investigation, I had to do a bunch of paperwork, such as the Emergency Contact Information and Payment Authorization.
And on August 19, a handful of people met in the Albany Capital Center; the building was locked but we were let in. Three hours later, we are trained NRFU Census enumerators.
Obviously, there is more to tell down the road. NONE of it will involve politics, per my agreement. Absolutely NONE of it will include any identifiable information about who I visited. I’ll be doing this until September 30, as far as I can tell.
1/3 of the country has still not responded to the Census
The guy in the White House wants to make an “unconstitutional move seeking to block undocumented immigrants from being counted in the census.”
An article in the Los Angeles Times notes this. “The Constitution mandates an ‘actual Enumeration’ every 10 years of ‘all persons’ in the country, but the president has repeatedly tried to limit who is counted.”
As you know, the census count helps in determining where taxpayer money is spent on building public facilities such as schools, hospitals, and fire departments. And, of course, it’s used in calculating states’ apportionment in the U.S. House of Representatives. But it determines other legislative districts as well.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had failed to honestly explain why he sought to change the census forms. Roberts called the stated reason — a need to have information to enforce the Voting Rights Act — ‘contrived.'”
How does one determine how many undocumented people there are, and in specific geographies? The directive would “adopt a practice never before used in U.S. history, faces several major hurdles — legal, logistical and political.
“If successfully carried out, it could have far-reaching effects by reducing the political clout of states with significant numbers of immigrants, including California and Texas. It could also shift power toward whiter, more rural areas of states at the expense of more diverse cities.”
Counted but then subtracted?
According to the IMPOTUS memo: “Census workers would continue counting immigrants who are in the country illegally, but they would not be factored into decisions about the congressional representation. The Census Bureau would have five months to come up with a way to accurately estimate the number of residents illegally in each state in order to subtract them from the overall count.
Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida, has his doubts. It’s unlikely the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, could meet the timeline. It’s difficult to quickly develop a methodology for estimating the number of immigrants without legal status in various areas of the country. “There are just so many moving parts here.”
Totally true, based on what I know about Census processes. Plus Title 13 of the US Code says that the data can only be used for statistical purposes. I can’t imagine how the Bureau is supposed to discern who’s “legal” and who is not at such a granular level.
Advocacy groups remain concerned that the publicity around Trump’s push for a citizenship question already has made millions of immigrants or mixed-status families reluctant to respond to the census.
Kelsey Herbert, National Campaigns Director for Faith in Public Life sounded the alarm. “The intention of this executive order is merely to suppress census participation, especially in hard-to-count communities.”
It’s not too late to answer by computer, mail, or phone
The U.S. Census Bureau sent reminder postcards last week to an estimated 34.3 million households. That was “the final mailing before census takers begin visiting nonresponding households across the nation in mid-August. Responding now minimizes the need for census takers to visit homes to collect responses in person.”
And you don’t want them to do that.
The Census Bureau uses an online map that tracks the nation’s participation in the census. More than 92 million households (or 62.3 percent of households) have already responded online, by phone, or by mail.” That number for New York State is 57.9%
“The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the nationwide start of census taker visits from mid-May to mid-August. Sending a postcard is one reminder in a series of reminders that the Census Bureau has mailed nonresponding households since mid-March urging them to respond.
“The Census Bureau strongly encourages the public to respond online at 2020census.gov. Households can respond online or by phone in English or 12 other languages. Or households can also respond by mail using the paper questionnaire that was mailed in April to most nonresponding addresses. Households can continue to respond on their own until these visits conclude on October 31.”