Including non-citizens in the census devalues ​​citizens’ votes and unfairly alters representation in the House

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series examining the Constitution and Federalist documents in America today.

You may have missed it, but a recent Census Bureau report found that the bureau made significant errors in the last census, overstating the population of eight states and understating the population of six states. As a result, citizens of undercounted states, like Florida, have not received all of the congressional representation to which they are entitled, while citizens of states like Minnesota and Rhode Island that have been overcounted are overrepresented. in Congress.

As anyone who filled out a census form in 2020 knows, we were adhering to the requirement of Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution that requires a “real count” of the U.S. population every 10 years. The year 2020 was the 24th census taken in our history.

While these demographics are used for many different statistical purposes, including the allocation of federal funds under programs that provide money to states based on their share of the U.S. population, their constitutional purpose is to distribute representation in the House of Representatives. This also affects presidential elections, since the distribution determines the number of votes a state has in the electoral college. Under Section 1 of Article II, the number of electors for each state is two U.S. Senators plus the number of its Representatives.

Generally, if a state, for example, has 10% of the total population, it is entitled to 10% of the representatives in the House. This is not always the case, however, due to another provision in Section 2 of Article I which provides that “each State shall have at least one representative”.

This, of course, may affect the breakdown for other states.

As our nation grew and added more states to the union, the House added more members. In 1929, however, Congress passed the Permanent Allocation Act, which limited the size of the House to 435 members. After the 2020 census figures were determined, these 435 members were distributed among the states based on the country’s total population (just over 331 million people).

This redistribution gave six states additional seats and reduced the number of seats held by seven states. Texas gained two representatives, while California and New York each lost a congressional seat. As previously reported, however, the Census Bureau made significant mistakes and deprived the citizens of eight states of proper representation in Congress.

Another pathology associated with the breakdown is that it is based on population totals that include non-citizens, including illegal aliens. In a country where the population of legal and illegal aliens now numbers in the millions, sheer volume distorts representation in Congress.

How serious is this distortion? In 2015, the Congressional Research Service published a report on how the distribution would have changed after the 2010 census if the estimated 2013 citizen population had been used, excluding foreigners here both legally and illegally. According to the report, using just the citizen population would have shifted seven congressional seats between 11 states. California, for example, would have lost four seats, while states like Louisiana and Missouri would each have gained a new seat.

The inclusion of the foreign population in the distribution unfairly and unfairly alters the political representation in the House and devalues ​​the votes of citizens.

Some argue that the wording in Section 2 that the distribution is based on “number of people in each state” means that foreigners must be included in the calculation of the distribution. However, the term “persons” has always been interpreted in this context to mean an individual who has not only a physical presence, but also an element of allegiance to a particular place. This is why the Census Bureau, for example, does not include noncitizens who visit the United States for vacation or business in the population count, because they have no political or legal to a state or federal government.

The Supreme Court of the United States has never ruled on whether the apportionment must include aliens under our Constitution.

• Hans A. von Spakovsky is senior legal officer and manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at the Heritage Foundation and former attorney for the Department of Justice and commissioner of the Federal Election Commission. He is co-author of “Our Broken Elections: How the Left Changed the Way You Vote”.


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