Gov. Bill Lee mostly ignored the Census. It’ll cost us millions — and voting power, for some — this decade
NASHVILLE — The 2020 Census results said counted 6.9 million people living in the Volunteer State. Now the U.S. Census Bureau says that number was off by 4.8% — roughly 330,000 people. With nearly one out of every 20 citizens missed, it’s one of the worst undercounts in the nation.
State, county and city population data may sound trivial, but, in reality, the stakes are high. Population figures are used distribute billions worth of federal funding to communities and it is also used to decide how much political power your community gets in Congress and in the state legislature.
On funding: the federal government uses population numbers to distribute program funding to states for healthcare, education, roads, rural development, and many other priorities. Simply put: more people, more money.
For states, billions of dollars are on the line. That’s why many governors choose to devote millions of dollars to programing that makes sure citizens fill out their census forms and their state count is accurate.
From the AP: “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.”
On political power: Census figures are also used to determine political power in Congress and in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Census data produces the number of representatives Tennessee gets in the U.S. House of Representatives and the number of state representatives and senators a county gets in the state legislature.
When a community is undercounted, the community’s people and perspective is underrepresented where policy decisions are being made.
Based on these undercount projections, a more accurate count would not have likely produced a change in Tennessee’s share of the U.S. House of Representatives.
However, poor county population data may have resulted in Shelby County losing a seat in the Tennessee state House. Earlier this year, Republicans approved a state legislative map reducing the number of representatives in Shelby County from 14 to 13.
The AP, again: A U.S. Census “national report card released in March showed the Black population in the 2020 census had a net undercount of 3.3%, while it was almost 5% for Hispanics and 5.6% for American Indians and Native Alaskans living on reservations. Those identifying as some other race had a net undercount of 4.3%. The non-Hispanic white population had a net overcount of 1.6%, and Asians had a net overcount of 2.6%, according to the results.”
Shelby County, which contains the city of Memphis, is a majority Black community. Census estimates suggest many of Tennessee’s uncounted are Black and Hispanic — meaning these residents will be artificially underrepresented in the halls of power for a decade.