Trump’s Revenge on California: The Census

David Siders, Politico, January 16, 2018

Fear is rising among Democrats over the prospect that President Donald Trump’s hard line on immigration might ultimately cost California a seat in Congress during the upcoming round of reapportionment.

Top Democrats here are increasingly worried the administration’s restrictive policies — and the potential inclusion of a question about citizenship on the next U.S. census — could scare whole swaths of California’s large immigrant population away from participating in the decennial count, resulting in an undercount that could cost the state billions of dollars in federal funding over the next decade and, perhaps, the loss of one of its 53 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The fears are well-founded: According to the population formula used by Congress to distribute House seats every 10 years, California is currently on the bubble in 2020, on the verge of losing a seat for the first time in its history.

California’s Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, on Wednesday proposed spending more than $40 million on the state’s own census-related outreach efforts to avoid that fate.

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California Secretary of State Alex Padilla told POLITICO the Trump administration’s management of the census could have “devastating effects” on his state.

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Angst about the 2020 census took hold nationally long before the Justice Department urged the U.S. Census Bureau last month to ask people about their citizenship, a request first reported by ProPublica. The bureau has been hampered by management questions and funding shortages that voting-rights advocates fear could hinder efforts to reach immigrants and other hard-to-count groups.

Those populations are especially prevalent in California. And even before Trump’s latest broadside at immigrant communities — asking why the United States should admit people from “shithole countries” — Democrats and voting-rights advocates warned that Trump’s rhetoric on immigration could chill participation.

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According to a study last month by Virginia-based Election Data Services, California could come “very close” to losing a congressional seat following the 2020 census regardless of immigrant participation in the count, a result of the state’s flattening population growth.

Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas could all gain seats, according to the study, while eight or nine states, including New York, Illinois and West Virginia, could each lose one.

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The prospect of losing a congressional seat is a familiar predicament in Rust Belt states. But it’s unheard of in California, which has added 42 House seats since 1920 due to nearly nonstop population growth. In such a solidly blue state, the loss of a seat would have a disproportionate impact on the Democratic Party.

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The Trump administration has not yet moved to add a citizenship question to the census. And many Republicans, who have long called for its inclusion, downplayed concerns about a significant undercount in California or any other state.

In a state where Democrats control every statewide office and overwhelming majorities in the Legislature, Dhillon said Democrats can only blame themselves if California loses a House seat. More people would come to California or stay here, she said, if taxes and other regulatory burdens were not so high.

Taking aim at one liberal firebrand, Dhillon said, “My only request is if we end up losing a seat, if it could be taken from Maxine Waters’ congressional district.”

The results of the 2020 census on California’s congressional representation (which could also mean the loss of a vote in the Electoral College) will not be felt until after the next presidential election — an eternity in politics. {snip}

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