A new estimate shows Arizona’s total population could see an undercount of nearly 5% if a controversial citizenship question is added to the 2020 Census – and potentially miss out on adding a congressional seat and Electoral College vote.
That’s according to a study from Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, which The Washington Post compiled in state-by-state estimates.
The study surveyed about 9,000 Hispanic and non-Hispanic people with a form matching the one used by the U.S. Census Bureau and asked half of them, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”
“We find that asking about citizenship status significantly increases the percent of questions skipped, with particularly strong effects among Hispanics, and makes respondents less likely to report having Hispanic household members,” the study concludes.
It estimated that ”asking a citizenship question may lead to an undercounting of Hispanics of between 5,761,284 and 6,382,820 in the 2020 Census.”
The Post’s analysis showed approximately 362,496 Hispanic Arizona residents (accounting for about 5% of the state’s total population) would be undercounted in 2020.
With this undercount, Arizona would not gain one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as projected, according to the Post’s analysis.
Like any other community with a miscount, Arizona and its local governments would also lose millions in federal funding for social services, education and transportation projects. Besides determining political representation in Congress, Census data is also used to draw local political districts.
The Trump Administration is pushing to include the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” in the 2020 Census, arguing it is needed to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.
However, recent documents that came to light indicate that the addition of the question has purely political aims. Files that belonged to Republican redistricting expert Thomas Hofeller, who died last year, show that he believed – told the Trump administration – that adding the citizenship question would decrease responses by Hispanics, and thus would allow for the creation of congressional and legislative maps that “would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.”
There are several lawsuits challenging the inclusion of the question, and the Supreme Court is expected to weigh in by the end of June.
The decennial census hasn’t asked respondents about citizenship since 1950, but the smaller and annual American Community Survey has included it.
In the ACS from 2016, Arizona topped the list nationally of nonresponse rates to that question. Arizona’s nonresponse rate to the citizenship question was 9%, while the national average was 6%.
Another study estimates that more than 4 million people nationally are at risk of being undercounted, which could lead to the worst undercount of black and Latino people in the U.S. since 1990, according to NPR.
Cities and non-profits across the Arizona are working on outreach campaigns to ensure the 2020 census accurately reflects the state’s populations.
The Maricopa Association of Governments, Maricopa and Pinal counties, and three tribal governments recently launched the iCount 2020 campaign.
“We want to reach everyone,” said Laurie Berg Sapp, MAG’s communication project manager. “We really want to target those populations that have been undercounted in the past: populations like families with children five and under; those who know little to no English; low-income populations; students; and snowbirds.”
The City of Phoenix is also proposing to set aside $1.5 million for its next fiscal year for outreach related to the 2020 census.
“We cannot afford for any one group in our city to not participate,” said Albert Santana, census director for the city. “If one section of this gets undercounted we are all impacted. We are all in this together.”