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Why Did Census Undercount Some Red States, Overcount Blue? One Lawmaker Demands Answers

Rep. Troy Nehls says the errors cost Texas a congressional seat, vows an investigation, calling the miscount “deeply concerning for the legitimacy of our Democracy.”
Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX). txdirectory.com
Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX). txdirectory.com

The U.S. Census Bureau admits it undercounted populations in five Republican-led states while overcounting people in six Democrat-leaning states, a disparity one congressman says cost Texas a congressional seat to which it was entitled.

Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) told Just the News he is demanding answers from the population-counting agency because the disparities uncovered by the 2020 post-enumeration survey show errors in counting large enough to impact the tools of U.S. representative democracy, such as electoral votes and congressional apportionment.

"The numbers don't lie," Nehls said. "Texas was undercounted by 2%, which means we were cheated out of an additional seat in Congress. And four other Republican states were as well. As a result, these red states have less representation in Congress, fewer votes in the Electoral College, and therefore receive less federal funding.

The Census Bureau earlier this year said a post-count analysis foud the 2020 census undercounted populations in five red states — Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennesee and Texas — as well as one traditionally Democrat state, Illinois. Likewise, the agency found it overcounted populations in six blue states — Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and Joe Biden's home state of Delaware — as well as two GOP-led states, Ohio and Utah.

Census officials acknowledged they were disappointed by the accuracy rate of the 2020 count, which they said was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. None of the under and overcounts can be fixed for apportionment, but the survey will be sued to try to make the 2030 count more precise, they added.

"Achieving an accurate count for all 50 states and DC is always a difficult endeavor, and these results suggest it was difficult again in 2020, particularly given the unprecedented challenges we faced," Census Bureau Director Robert Santos said.

"[W]e know there is still more work to do in planning future censuses to ensure equitable coverage across the United States," he acknowledged, "and we are working to overcome any and all obstacles to achieve that goal."

The undercounting was most severe in Arkansas, where 5.04% of the population was missed, while Texas was undercounted by 1.92%. The latter, however, was more consequential, since Texas is a much larger state and was already close to securing another congressional seat.

The undercount in the Lone Star State represents more than a half a million residents, and Texas needed only 189,000 more people to gain another congressional seat. On the flip side, Hawaii and Delaware were the most overcounted.

Nehls said he fears some of the erroneous math may have been intentional, an effect of bureaucratic partisanship.

"This wasn't a coincidence because things like this don’t just happen," he said. "The bureaucrats in Washington have an agenda. They want Democrats in power and won't let anything get in their way. We must get to the bottom of what happened."

Nehls said if Republicans win back control of the U.S. House, as polls indicate they might, lawmakers "will use our oversight authority next Congress to investigate the Census Bureau and determine how and why these significant errors happened to ensure this doesn't happen again."

The Texas Republican began the early work of such an investigation, sending a letter Friday demanding several answers from Santos as to why blue states were mostly advantaged by the erroneous counts.

"As a result, these blue states will now have more representation in Congress, more votes in the Electoral College, and receive more federal funds than they should," the congressman wrote. "This is deeply concerning for the legitimacy of our Democracy."

Among the questions his letter asked:

  • What caused the inaccurate count, and how were those causes determined?
  • Why was there such a difference in the error rate from the prior, 2010 census, which showed a statistically insignificant error rate of only 0.01%?
  • What steps are being taking to ensure these errors don't occur again?
  • Was the agency instructed by anyone in the executive branch or otherwise to take steps differently than in 2010 that would lead to the inaccuracy?

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