The Count Matters - 27 East

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Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1725293

The Count Matters

The decennial census is constitutionally mandated to apportion the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. Representational equality — each elected official representing the same number of people — is essential in a republic. Furthermore, census data are also important in the allocation of an estimated $1.5 trillion in federal funding to states and localities.

Thus, accuracy and completeness of the count are of utmost concern to all New Yorkers.

The Trump administration has challenged the integrity of the 2020 Census since the first day in its attempt to add a question on citizenship, aiming to undercount not just immigrants (both citizen and non-citizen) but also their spouses, U.S.-born children and other household members.

Federal courts blocked the government from asking a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census. The Supreme Court upheld a New York judge, finding that the government’s only justification for adding the question was “contrived” (enforcing the Voting Rights Act) and not the real reason — leaving open the door to another attempt in the future.

This administration most likely will do precisely that in the near future if President Donald Trump is reelected. A change in the Supreme Court composition might substantively change the final outcome.

We might well speculate how concerns raised by the administration might have resulted in a more severe and biased undercount.

Undercount rates are not identical for all groups. As reported by Teresa Sullivan (Harvard Data Science Review, 2020), an analysis of coverage in Census 2010 found children under age 5 were undercounted by 5 percent, while adults between ages 20 and 24, and over age 60, were overcounted. Whites were overcounted by 0.8 percent, but Hispanics were undercounted by 1.5 percent, African Americans by 2.1 percent, and Native Americans by 4.9 percent.

A more dramatic undercounting among children and minority groups most likely will result in Census 2020 due to the combined effects of the erosion of trust in government, the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemics, and the heavy reliance upon electronic responses in this census (since access to portable computers is lower among them).

Voters may want to look at Representative Lee Zeldin’s record under this light.

He has never raised a single question about the Trump administration design to threaten the integrity of the census. On the contrary, Mr. Zeldin has blamed undocumented immigrants for raising costs of schools and social services, has raised fears of criminals among them, and has supported the notion that terrorists are crossing our porous southern border with Mexico, thus fostering anti-immigration feelings among his constituency in support of the Trump administration’s policies.

Mr. Zeldin has not defended the interests of New York State and Long Island and does not deserve to be reelected.

Jorge Balan

Westhampton

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