Constitutional Law – What’s The Fuss Over The Census?

What’s The Fuss Over The Census?

The Census
The U.S. Census, performed by the U.S. Census Bureau, is a procedure that acquires information about people in a given population, and the data collected impacts the design and implementation of policies and laws in governmental sectors including education, housing, transportation, health, and environmental protection. The Census counts every resident in the United States.

One of the most important roles of the census is population apportionment. There are four-hundred-thirty-five (435) Congressional representatives in total. Apportionment determines how these members of the House of Representatives will be divided among the states. Contrary to Senators, of which every state has two, the number of representatives per state are determined solely based on population. Today, each member of the House represents approximately seven-hundred-thousand (700,000) constituents.

The Electoral College
The Electoral College is the mechanism established by the Constitution of the United States of America for the election of the President and Vice President of the United States by small groups of appointed representatives, electors, from each state and the District of Columbia. Each state receives an allocation of electoral votes and this allocation is determined by the number of members in the state’s delegation to the US Congress.

Electoral college votes are allocated among the states based on the Census. The number of Electoral College votes changes every census. Article II, Section 1, clause 2 declares that it is tied to the number of Senators and Representatives for each state:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

Every state gets two Senators, so they get two Electoral Votes. They also get representatives proportional to their population (minimum one), so they get at least one more Electoral Vote. From Article I, Section 2, clause 3:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at least one Representative;

What’s Going On Today?
The population of the United States has been calculated by different ways throughout history. Currently the Constitution states that our population consists of all men and women aged eighteen (18) or older. For the record, the Census counts “total number of people” not “total number of citizens”. The U.S. Census Bureau was recently requested by the Department of Justice (DoJ) to include the question of a person’s citizenship. It is the first time in seventy (70) years that this has occurred. The fear is the reinstatement of the citizenship question will lead to an undercount of minorities living in various localities and effect distribution of federal funds as well as a re-apportionment of Congressional representatives and the electoral college.

The census is performed every ten (10) years. To reiterate, the number of Congressional representatives is recalculated through a process called apportionment. The most recent re-apportionment was on December 21, 2010, following on the heels of the 2010 census. A number of states changed with the biggest gain being Texas receiving four additional Electoral Votes. Ohio and New York had the biggest losses, losing two Electoral Votes each. The next apportionment will occur after the 2020 census, which will affect the 2022 congressional election and the 2024 presidential election.

The takeaway here is that the larger a state’s population of qualified people, the more electoral votes it has, as well as the likelihood to receive a larger allocation of the distributions of billions in federal funds to the state’s local communities. Now you know what all the fuss is about regarding “the Census”.

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