WASHINGTON – Five states — New York, California, Texas, Arizona and Florida — are perilously close to losing out on congressional seats because of lackluster participation in the U.S. census.
The five were average or below average in mailing back 10-question census forms when compared to other states, trailing by as many as 5 percentage points, according to the final census mail-in tally released Wednesday.
Based on recent population trends, New York, California and Texas had been estimated to fall just above the cutoff for the last House seats when they are redistributed next year. Waiting behind them in hopes of picking up additional seats are Arizona and Florida, which are already expected to gain one seat apiece.
Responses from these states also raise a red flag because of their higher shares of residents who are Latinos. The Census Bureau has said one of its main concerns is whether tensions over immigration will discourage Latinos, and particularly illegal immigrants, from participating in the government count. That issue returned to the forefront after Arizona passed a tough immigration enforcement bill.
Latino residents represent a predominant share of the population growth in New York, California, Texas, Arizona and Florida, making up more than 50 percent of total growth since 2000. As a result, those states could face big losses if there isn’t full cooperation when the Census Bureau on Saturday begins knocking on the doors of those who did not respond by mail.
Of the five states on the cusp, the biggest potential losers are California and New York, which could have a net loss of one and two House seats, respectively. Texas may end up gaining just three House seats instead of four.
Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said he was concerned about some skittish Latinos who may refuse to answer their doors, particularly given Arizona’s new immigration law.