Brooklyn Boro

NY state to lose seat in Congress, for lack of 89 census returns

April 27, 2021 Jennifer Peltz and Marina Villenueve, Associated Press
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New York will lose one seat in Congress as a result of national population shifts, according to census data released Monday — a loss that might have avoided if only 89 more people had been counted.

The announcement left people wondering where the seat might be lost. Will it be in Brooklyn? In Queens? In Westchester?

In 2020, the Eagle reported that, according to the Brooklyn Community Foundation, “Brooklyn is the most difficult county in New York State to conduct the census,” and about 33 percent of Brooklynites did not respond to their census forms in 2020.

As of April 2020, the same Eagle article reported, “Census workers say the city’s response rate for 2020 is 75 percent higher than it was the last time around, but it’s still lower than the national or statewide averages.”

The state’s population grew by more than 4 percent over the past decade, according to the 2020 census, but that increase didn’t keep pace with big jumps in other parts of the country.

A stack of Census Bureau flyers in 2020 urged people to “make New York count.” AP photo by John Amir

If the aforementioned 89 more people had been counted in New York during the 2020 census, it would have held on to all 27 of its current seats in congress, according to Kristin Koslap, senior technical expert for 2020 Census Apportionment.

“There were 435 seats. The last seat went to Minnesota, and New York was next in line,” Koslap said in a news conference announcing the change. “If you do the algebra equation that determines how many they would have needed, it’s 89 people.”

The count took place as New York was getting ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

New York is one of seven states losing a member of congress as a result of the 2020 census. Five states will gain a seat in Congress. Texas will gain two.

New York stands to lose out on more than political clout: The census also determines the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding each year.

New York City, for example, gains $7,000 a year for every household with more than two people, the city’s 2020 census director, Julie Menin, said in October.

Deploying ads, text messages, phone calls and celebrities, New York state and local officials exhorted residents last year to participate in a count that unfolded amid the coronavirus pandemic and court fights over various aspects of the Trump administration’s conduct of the census. That included an ultimately unsuccessful effort to exclude people living in the country illegally.

“This is literally one of the most important things that’s going to happen to New York City in a long time, whether we can maximize this census count or not,” Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said last summer.

Ultimately, the state’s census “self-response rate” — households answering by phone, internet or mail — was a bit over 64 percent, around the same as in 2010, Census Bureau data show. The national rate was 67 percent.

While the loss of at least one seat was expected in New York, the political world has been in some suspense over whether it might lose two in next year’s congressional elections.

It’s not yet clear how voters’ districts will change. That process hinges on more detailed census data that isn’t expected until August, at the earliest.

Traditionally, state lawmakers and governors have redrawn voting districts for seats in the U.S. House and state legislatures. But some states, including New York, have shifted that job to special commissions or made other changes intended to reduce the potential for partisan gerrymandering.

In New York, voters approved a 2014 ballot proposition that calls for a 10-member commission to draw districts for the U.S. House and the state Legislature. The maps will be submitted to the Legislature for approval.

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