The Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby v. Holder gave states with histories of racist gerrymandering practices the freedom to draw their own district maps without first getting approval from the federal government. Conservative lawmakers have taken advantage.
This year, Republican-led legislatures in some of those states — including Texas and Georgia — have proposed new maps that eliminate seats held by Black and brown lawmakers representing large nonwhite communities. In some cases, these legislatures have used population growth fueled by Blacks and Latinos to award white communities more representatives.
At the same time, incomplete data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau could have a similar effect on many Black and brown people: failing to register their existence to the detriment of these populations. An undercount could diminish the resources given to Black and brown communities over the next decade, including schools, hospitals, infrastructure repairs and emergency response services.
Multiple reports from the past month estimate that the 2020 census undercounted the number of Black and Hispanic people living in the United States. A recent analysis by Constance Citro, a statistician and senior scholar at the Committee on National Statistics at the National Academies of Sciences, estimates that the census undercounts the number of people identifying solely as Black by 3.2 percent to 7.2 percent, compared with 2.3 percent in 2010.
A report released in March by Count All Kids, a group that advocates for accurate counts of children in census reports, is predicting “high net undercounts for children, particularly Black and Hispanic children” in the upcoming official census report.
Using partial data released by the Census Bureau in December, the group estimates that the net undercount of Hispanic children doubled from 2.1 percent in 2010 to 4.2 percent in 2020. The net undercount of children identified solely as Black increased from 0.6 percent in 2010 to 5.8 percent in 2020, according to the report.
The obstacles to getting an accurate count have been clear for years. In 2017, the Trump administration tried to add a citizenship question to the census, a move widely seen as an attempt to discourage some Black and brown people from participating. On top of that, researchers for the Census Bureau said last week that their own estimates show that the pandemic contributed to lower-than-usual responses rates in the 2020 count.
From the Trump administration to GOP lawmakers, officials have set plans in motion to harden white control over nonwhite communities. And many of these plans are working.
Today, through a combination of targeted gerrymandering and bureaucratic sabotage, Black and brown people are at risk of being discounted and locked out of power for the foreseeable future
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