Common Cause/NY and "New York Counts" Partners To Release Report on Dangers of Undercounting Census in NYS

Only 25% of NYS counties currently participating in local census count

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NEW YORK, NY (10/02/2017) (readMedia)-- Hard to Count communities most at risk: immigrants, renters, low income households, rural

In advance of tomorrow's U.S. Supreme Court hearing on partisan gerrymandering (Gill vs. Whitford), Common Cause/NY together with members of the New York Civic Engagement Table's "New York Counts" Census 2020 full count committee, released a report on the 2020 Census and the dangers of undercounting communities in New York State. Hard to Count (HTC) communities include: rural households, immigrants, renters, low-income households, communities of color, and those with children under 5 years old. For instance, New York City has one of the highest portions of hard-to-count tracts in the nation, and undercount costs Bronx County over $300 million in federal funding between 2000 and 2010.

This cycle, the city is aggressively going after HTC areas and participating in LUCA. But, the report points out, hard to count areas are found throughout New York State, not just in New York City. The report was compiled with input and maps from the CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center.

Undercounting is not just in urban populations – it greatly effects those in rural areas as well. Since Upstate and Western New York rely on agriculture for most of their economies, it's crucial that farmworkers are counted correctly. While the National Center for Farmworker Health reported over 100,000 farmworkers and their families in New York State in 2011, a state publication in 2012 estimated the number of farmworkers in New York State at 60,000.

The report urges counties and municipalities to participate in the U.S. Census Bureau's Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program to help insure a full and complete 2020 census count. Accurate Census data will help provide for fairer congressional, state legislative and local government legislative districts and to ensure the proper distribution of federal funding. LUCA is the only program where state and local governments with HTC tracts can help ensure the accuracy of the Census. As of September 27, only 14 counties, or less than 25%, in New York State had signed up for LUCA: Steuben, Tioga, St. Lawrence, Cayuga, Clinton, Montgomery, Saratoga, Greene and Ulster, plus the 5 counties in New York City (which accounts for roughly 50% of the state's population).

Based on demographics and prior participation, the report identifies the following remaining counties in HTC areas:

• Erie

• Niagara

• Schenectady

• Nassau

• Suffolk

• Westchester

• Delaware

• Schuyler

• Tompkins

• Lewis

• Washington

• Monroe

View the full scope of past participation and Hard to Count tracts on maps prepared by Steven Romalewski, the Director of CUNY Mapping Services at the Center for Urban Research at The Graduate Center.

"Without an accurate census, many states and counties will be denied crucial funding and proper representation. As we approach the 2020 redistricting in New York, political lines will be drawn based on population size. We cannot afford for the lines to be wrong. Every person matters, now let's make sure they count," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

"The Hard to Count mapping website visualizes where Census enumerators had to work overtime in 2010 to make sure the population was fully counted," said Steven Romalewski of the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York's Graduate Center. "We encourage congressional leaders, local governments, and others to use the maps as a guide to help ensure we have a fair and accurate count in 2020."

"LUCA is an essential building block for an accurate census. Accurate census data lead to better and fairer legislative districts. They help to make sure that people in all communities--urban, rural and minority-get counted and that their votes count," said redistricting expert Jeffrey M. Wice, a fellow at SUNY Buffalo Law School.


• Communities of color are prone to being undercounted by the census: Black (non-Hispanic): 2.04%; Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 1.34%; Hispanic: 1.54%; American Indian: 4.88% (2010 Census)

• Children < 5 are also more likely to be missed (4.6% rate of undercount).

• In New York state, there are 503,626 children under the age of five (42.8%) living in Hard to Count (HTC) tracts. This is the third-highest amount in the nation.

• In the 2010 census, renters were undercounted by 1.1%, while homeowners were over-counted by .06%

• In 2010, 95% of census tracts considered Hard to Count ("HTC tracts") in Kings County had a participation rate under 50%.

• Undercount costs in Bronx County were over $300 million between 2000 and 2010.

• Areas at risk of undercounting occur throughout the state, not only in New York City or urban areas. Westchester County contains four (4) out of the top 10 census tracts in New York State outside of NYC with the worst 2010 census mail return rates, while Orange County contains two (2).

Digital Divide

• While the Census Bureau expects to have 55% of responses submitted online for the 2020 Census, 5.4 million New Yorkers and 55,000 businesses do not have access to 25 Mbps broadband internet service.

• In 2010, 120 million households received their census form in the mail, and 74% mailed it back. With one of the highest portion of hard-to-count tracts in the nation, New York City's response rate was just 59% in 2010.

• For the 2000 Census, New York City added almost half of the half million addresses submitted through the LUCA program.

• In 2010, only 27% of villages and 26% of towns in New York State participated in LUCA.

The Solution: Through LUCA, Communities can improve accuracy

LUCA is the first step towards accountability and accuracy. Through a LUCA partnership, local/state government officials can work with the Census Bureau to update the national address list: the Master Address File (MAF). LUCA partners have exclusive access to the tools and databases used by the Census Bureau to improve the accuracy of the census in their community. Using local knowledge, officials are able to identify households that the Census Bureau may miss.

Participation in LUCA is one of the ways to ensure a proper count.

New Yorkers should encourage and ensure their locality accepts the invitation to participate in the 2020 Census LUCA program and help local governments identify hard-to-find, converted and hidden housing units (while being sure that strict confidentiality requirements are followed).

Important Dates:

? October, 2017: the Census Bureau will begin a series of LUCA workshops to help officials understand the digital tools such as the TIGER spatial database and the MAF.

Self-training aids and webinars will also be available on the LUCA website for those who cannot attend the workshop events.

? December 15, 2017 is the deadline to register to participate in LUCA.

? February, 2018 to May, 2018: 120 days after registered participating governments receive their LUCA materials, they will begin submitting addresses and spatial updates which can include additions, deletions, and corrections.

? August, 2019 to October, 2019: LUCA participants will be given feedback from the Census Bureau, and they have the opportunity to check their records against MAF.

"In order to have an accurate 2020 Census that results in equitable access to federal resources and fair representation for all, it is imperative that we provide the tools necessary to count every community. LUCA is the first step local governments can take to ensure an accurate Census count. Activists and community organizations concerned about an accurate and fair Census should encourage their local governments to participate in LUCA and their members of Congress to adequately fund the Census" said Melody Lopez, Director of New York Civic Engagement Table.

"Despite making up a large portion of the population, immigrant communities are often undercounted and underrepresented in New York State. It's crucial that our communities partake in the 2020 census to ensure our resources do not vanish and our needs go unserved. As the Trump Administration tries to silence our voices, we will only work harder to make ours count," said Steven Choi, Executive Director of The New York Immigration Coalition.

"Unless we bring hard-to-count New York Latinos out of the shadows and into the light in Census 2020, the Latino community will continue to have disproportionate access to fair political representation and public services," stated Arturo Vargas, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund executive director. "By ensuring that municipalities participate in the LUCA program and that the necessary investments are made by Congress today, we can work towards a full and accurate count of the nation's Latino community tomorrow."

"Participation by local government in the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program will be critical for the accuracy and success of the upcoming 2020 Census. More than ever, hard to count communities such as immigrant and communities of color need a fair and accurate Census count that will ensure adequate funding/resources, and the opportunity at fair electoral representation that truly mirrors the community casting those votes," said Gabriela Castillo, Coordinator-Long Island Civic Engagement Table.

"There is nothing more foundational to our democracy than making sure every person counts. If the Census isn't done right, with the resources and planning it needs to succeeds, people of color and immigrants like me will be under-counted-and, in the process, our communities will be stripped of the representation and the resources we deserve and need. We demand that the Trump administration immediately change its course and dedicate the resources that the Census requires. And, with the federal effort already lagging, we encourage our elected officials here in New York to use every tool at their disposal to change the administration's course on the Census and ensure our counts are complete," said Nieves Padilla, Senior Organizer, Make the Road New York.


Every ten years, the United States conducts a "Decennial Census" with the goal of determining the distribution of resources and political representation by counting every person in the country where they live. The census is a complex operation to collect important demographic, social, and economic information, but serves as the country's only source for reliable nationwide and community-level data.

The census is mandated under the Constitution and it is required by law that all people respond, regardless of age or citizenship status. Getting the next census count right is critical, as it will shape our democracy, public policy and economy moving forward. Key decisions about how the 2020 Census will launch are being made right now, and poor choices could have enormous impacts in the years to come.

Gathering a complete and accurate count for the 2020 Census has wide ranging long term impacts throughout New York State. Census-derived data is the basis for equal political representation under the United States Constitution, which directly controls the number of New York representatives in the U.S. Congress.

A complete count not only helps ensure fair and accurate congressional, state, and local redistricting but determines whether communities throughout New York receive funding for local infrastructure and social service that reflect true population levels. The distribution of political power, economic investment and government funding for at risk New York communities relies heavily on a fair and accurate 2020 Census count.