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US miscounts population, costing congressional seats and party funding

The census admits overcounts up to 6.8% and undercounts up to 5%

The US Census Bureau released a report revealing major population count errors in 14 states – only after the erroneous numbers were used to split congressional representation and federal funding metrics for the next decade.

Net overcounts reached 6.8% in Hawaii, while the largest undercount was 5% in Arkansas, according to a follow-up survey released Thursday by the Census Bureau. All but one of the seven states with overcounts above 2% are controlled by Democrats. The four states with undercounts over 2% are controlled by Republicans.

About one in 20 residents of Arkansas and Tennessee were not counted in the 2020 census. Undercounts were also large enough in Florida and Texas – at 3.5% and 1.9%, respectively — to cost both states seats in Congress.

Hawaii, Delaware and Rhode Island all got more than one additional resident for every 20 correctly counted people. Minnesota and New York also saw significant overcounts, at 3.8% and 3.4%, respectively. Utah was the only Republican-led state with a large overcount, at 2.6%. Excessive counts would have prevented Minnesota and Rhode Island from losing seats in Congress.

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The stakes are high with census numbers because the numbers are used to allocate political representation and federal funding. The numbers are locked in as a population base for each state until the 2030 census, although they are now known to be wrong in light of tracking analysis.

“These statistical products cannot be used to alter the final census count, but are useful for evaluating the current census, determining how best to estimate population by 2030, and helping to improve future censuses,” said the Census Bureau.

The bureau offered no explanation of how the errors were made in the 14 states with significant counting errors. The follow-up survey after the 2010 U.S. Census showed that no state had statistically significant counting errors.

Counting errors were significant in numerical terms. For example, the 2020 tally missed about 325,000 Tennesseans and 550,000 Texans. The census assigned New York more than 670,000 non-existent residents, and Minnesota’s population was inflated by 215,000. President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware, which had the second highest rate of highest overcrowding at 5.5%, benefited over 50,000 additional residents.

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