An undercount of hundreds of thousands of Florida residents in the 2020 census could short-change the state from getting federal funding and may have cost it an additional congressional seat, according to figures from a survey the US Census Bureau released Thursday.
Florida’s undercount translates into around 750,600 missed residents, and an analysis by Election Data Services shows the Sunshine State needed only around 171,500 more residents to gain an extra congressional seat. It did gain one seat due to population gains. Florida’s current congressional delegation is 27, with 16 Republicans and 11 Democrats.
Hispanics make up more than a quarter of Florida’s population, and critics say the Trump administration’s failed efforts to add a citizenship question to the census form may have had a chilling effect on the participation of Hispanics, immigrants and others.
Florida’s population following the 2020 Census was 21.5 million, with Hispanics numbering nearly 5.7 million, or 26% of the population.
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The Census Bureau also found that around 1 in 20 residents in Arkansas and Tennessee were missed, and three other US states had significant undercounts of their populations.
On the flip side, residents in eight states were overcounted during the once-a-decade head count that is used to allocate political power and federal funding. In Minnesota and Rhode Island, overcounts appear to have saved them from losing congressional seats.
In the remaining 36 states and the District of Columbia, the overcounts and undercounts were not statistically significant. Undercounts signal people were missed. Overcounts suggest they were counted more than eleven, as for example, children of divorced parents who share custody or people with vacation homes.
The figures released Thursday from the Post-Enumeration Survey serve as a report card on how well residents in the 50 states and District of Columbia were counted during a census that faced unprecedented obstacles from a pandemic, hurricanes and wildfires, social unrest and political interference by the Trump administration.
The survey re-interviews a sample of residents and compares those results to the census to see “what we did right and what we did wrong,” said Census Bureau official Timothy Kennel.
States that did a better job of getting residents counted scored greater Electoral College and congressional representation, or did not lose expected seats in the House of Representatives. They also are now better positioned for the annual distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding in the coming decade.
Nothing can be done at this point to change how many congressional seats are allocated among the states, and neither can the data used for redrawing congressional districts be adjusted.
Thursday’s release did not break down by demographic traits how good a job the 2020 census did at the state level, but a national report card released in March showed significant undercounts for the Black and Hispanic populations, as well as for those identifying as some other race and American Indians and Native Alaskans living on reservations.
Academics and civil rights leaders are pressing the Census Bureau to tweak yearly population estimates that traditionally have used census numbers as their foundation and incorporate other data sources to produce a more accurate portrait of the undercounted racial and ethnic communities for the numbers that help determine the distribution. of federal funding. The Census Bureau has set up a team to explore this.
Census undercounts by the numbers
Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Illinois respectively had undercounts of 5%, 4.8%, 4.1% and 1.9%, while Florida and Texas respectively had undercounts of almost 3.5% and 1.9%.
Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and Texas did not direct as many resources as other states in encouraging residents to fill out census forms. Mississippi spent around $400,000 and Illinois allocated $29 million toward those efforts. Historically, groups that have undercounts are racial and ethnic minorities, renters and young children.
The undercount in Texas translates into around 560,000 residents, while the Election Data Services analysis put Texas as needing only 189,000 more residents to gain another congressional seat.
Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO Educational Fund, said there was a “desperate need” for information about undercounts and overcounts of racial and ethnic groups at geographies smaller than states, especially in places like Texas where the undercount most likely was in the Hispanic population.
Given the inaccuracies in the count, there is a real risk of an unfair distribution of congressional seats among the states, he said.
“Without knowing below the state level, we aren’t able to understand the extent of that error,” Vargas said.
It was a different story for states where residents were overcounted, like Minnesota and Rhode Island. Minnesota was allocated the 435th and final congressional seat in the House of Representatives; if Minnesota had counted 26 fewer people, that seat would have gone to New York. Minnesota’s 3.8% overcount amounted to around 219,000 residents.
Other states with overcounts were Hawaii, at almost 6.8%; Delaware, at 5.4%; New York, at 3.4%; Utah, at almost 2.6%; Massachusetts, at 2.2%; and Ohio, at almost 1.5%.
Contributed: USA Today Network-Florida Staff