SCOTUS Census citizenship vote

It SHOULD have been 9-0

citizenship questionLast week, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to refuse to approve the citizenship question on the 2020 census. More accurately, SCOTUS referred the case back to a lower court. I’m glad for the outcome, but I thought the dissent was disingenuous.

“‘For the first time ever, the court invalidates an agency action solely because it questions the sincerity of the agency’s otherwise adequate rationale,’ said Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented separately.”

Adequate rationale? Well, no.

“On May 30, the plaintiffs [revealed that a] central portion of the Justice Department’s rationale for the question was apparently written by Thomas Hofeller, the GOP’s longtime gerrymandering mastermind. In a 2015 study, Hofeller wrote that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census would be ‘advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic Whites’ and “a disadvantage to the Democrats.’

“He also explained how Republicans could justify inserting a citizenship question by claiming, falsely, that it would aid enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Multiple passages in Hofeller’s study appeared verbatim in the 2017 Justice Department letter that provided a legal rationale for the question’s addition.”

While the “Justice Department responded with indignant denial,” the nefarious conspiratorial linkage is quite clear, in far more detail than I can get into here. If the ruling had gone the other way, it could have dealt a grave blow to democracy.

Even those who voted correctly misrepresented the ‘pedigree’ of the citizenship question. “Never in the 230-year history of the census has the complete-count questionnaire (or its equivalent) asked for the citizenship status of everyone in the country.”

Several companies had filed a brief to the Supreme Court arguing that “The inaccuracy resulting from the Citizenship Question will harm businesses, because Census data can play a role in many decisions by large and small businesses alike.”

This is not to say the decennial Census process is now out of the woods. A report by the Urban Institute notes that “new ways of conducting the U.S. census… have not been thoroughly tested and could pose another risk to the count’s accuracy. These methods include allowing all households to complete an online form…

“The study found that new operational changes being implemented in 2020 like ‘internet self-response’… were ‘insufficiently tested in a decennial census environment’ and that “best evidence suggests they will disproportionately improve the count of those who are already easiest to count, leaving the hard-to-count population a lingering challenge.'”

The average person might think the Census folk only work on the Census in the immediate run up to the event, but not so. Particularly in the 60 months before the decennial, the Bureau is testing questions and methodologies.

“Uncertainty in funding in recent years” – blame Congress and the White House for that – “has led the Census Bureau to cancel field tests for the 2020 census, including test runs designed for rural and Spanish-speaking areas. This could still lead to the worst undercount of black and Latinx people in 30 years.

Of course, the folks at Census are aware that not everyone is online, and will offer alternatives, including mail, phone, and when necessary, in-person visits, though each of those attempts come as an added expense.

An inaccurate count affects redistricting for a decade and affect other data sources. It also guides community funding decisions. Learn more about Census data at the Census Academy.

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Older American, the advantages of being one

Within just a couple decades, older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.

older AmericansSome of my friends, who have hit threshold ages (55, 60, 62 or 65, depending on the venue) at which they can receive items /services at reduced rates, refuse to accept the discounts. I think they are crazy to reject the benefits of being an older American.

It’s not just the monetary savings. It’s that I’ve gone this far and I deserve to accept the perks when they’re offered. Life can be hard, and one should take advantage of whatever makes it easier.

When I took Amtrak to Washington, DC for a conference, I was eligible for a 10 percent discount on train tickets. On the return trip to New York City, however, something even more important took place.

I had been waiting at the K gate but had to go all the way to the A gate to use the men’s room. By the time I returned, the train had been called, and the line was at the E line when I got in.

Then one of the personnel asked for people with children and senior citizens to preboard. At first, it didn’t register. But about ten seconds later, I thought, “WAiT a minute. That’s me! I can join them!” The young woman standing behind me, noting my vacillation, said, “Go for it!”

Still, I wonder if these senior perks are sustainable. Here’s a fun Census statistic: “The year 2030 marks an important demographic turning point in U.S. history according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections.

“The aging of baby boomers means that within just a couple decades, older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history… By 2035, there will be 78.0 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18.”

I was thinking about retiring one of these days. “As the population ages, the ratio of older adults to working-age adults, also known as the old-age dependency ratio, is projected to rise. By 2020, there will be just over three-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person. By 2060, that ratio will fall to just under two-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person.

“The median age of the U.S. population is expected to grow from age 38 today to age 43 by 2060.” Yet another reason to encourage immigration. Most immigrants skew young, adding to the vitality of the nation.

From ABC Wednesday

Cool Congressional Districts website

Today, this is New York’s 22nd district. Eleven other districts have served this area since 1953.

NY22
“For better or worse, the way Congressional districts are drawn can determine who wins elections, which communities are represented, and what laws are passed. Explore how your own district has changed (sometimes dramatically) over time.”

That’s the introduction to What the District, the ACLU’s nifty website showing changes in Congressional maps since I was born. I opted to select Binghamton, NY, on the Southern Tier of the state as my point of reference because it was my hometown, so I’m more aware of the changes over time.

The chart above does NOT show the size of the district, although you get a sense of it as you directly type in a city, or for larger places, the ZIP Code. In the earlier years, the Binghamton district was pretty compact.

Then in the 1970s, it sprawled eastward for most redistricting periods. When I was in New Paltz, near the Hudson River, in that decade, I was surprised to discover I was now in the same district as Binghamton.

Interestingly, after the 2010 Census, the district stretched northward to include Utica instead of eastward.

The specific description of my home district: “Today, this is New York’s 22nd district. Eleven other districts have served this area since 1953. As in most states, the New York state legislature has the power to draw new congressional district boundaries.”

One of the realities in New York State is that it has lost Congressional representation from 43 in 1953 to 27 in 2013. It could go down further in 2023, not because of an absolute loss in population from decade to decade, but because other states are growing at a faster clip.

“New York state has the 9 smallest Congressional districts in the country by land area, all of them less than 30 square miles in size.” Of course all of those are in New York City, not upstate.