WASHINGTON, D.C. (WGHP) – Did North Carolina deserve that 14th seat in Congress for which voters this week nominated candidates?

A report released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau lists six states that were significantly undercounted in the 2020 Census, and three of them – Florida, Texas and Illinois – were among the most populous states, meaning they arguably had been shorted when the 435 seats for Congress were redistributed based on the new census.

The Census Bureau also reported eight states whose population was overcounted, including New York and Ohio. The bureau in March had revealed a national undercount, especially for Blacks and Latino citizens.

North Carolina was on neither list. Although every state has some variance in accuracy, only those with significant percentage swings are noted by the Census Bureau.

These states showed the significant overcount and undercount reported by the Census Bureau (CENSUS.GOV)

The distribution of congressional seats is reviewed every 10 years when the distribution of population is revealed by the census. The report in 2020 was delayed because of efforts by the Trump administration to add citizen questions and then by the COVID-19 pandemic.

You may recall that in North Carolina, even after the 14th seat in Congress was approved, there were delays in drawing the districts for those seats – and for state House and Senate seats – because the census data was delayed. That caused maps to be drawn in November, for court reviews to be pushed into 2022 and for the Primary Election to be delayed by two months, to May 17.

The bureau’s report in March, the “2020 Post-Enumeration Survey Estimation Report,” a 19-page document that serves as an audit for the original population report released in October 2020, said the U.S. population was undercounted by 18.8 million.

Among the findings was that the census had undercounted Black and various Indigenous groups but overcounted whites, non-Hispanic whites and Asians.

On Thursday, the bureau said the identification of 14 states with undercount or overcount, described as “a net coverage error statistically different from zero, is the product of an audit in which census analysts “determine how well we did,” Bureau Director Robert L. Santos said in the report.

They broke down like this:

  • Undercount: Arkansas (-5.04%), Florida (-3.48%), Illinois (-1.97%), Mississippi (-4.11%), Tennessee (-4.78%) and Texas (-1.92%).
  • Overcount: Delaware (+5.45%), Hawaii (+6.79%), Massachusetts (+2.24%), Minnesota (+3.84%), New York (+3.44%), Ohio (+1.49%), Rhode Island (+5.05%) and Utah (+2.59%).

The counting

The Post-Enumeration Survey puts North Carolina’s population at 10.150 million. That means that each congressional district would comprise roughly 725,000 residents.

Florida’s population of 21.070 million means that the undercount would represent about 700,000 more residents. Florida has 28 congressional districts, with each district apportioned to about 750,000 residents.

Texas, with 28.54 million residents, should have been more than 29 million, or about a half-million more. Texas has 38 seats, or about 750,000 a district, too.

Seats in Congress

In the reapportionment for 2022, Texas added two new seats – the only state to do so – and Florida, like North Carolina, added one, as did Colorado, Montana and Oregon. But California, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Illinois all lost one seat. The other states didn’t change.

Illinois’ lost seat came with an undercount of its 12.54 million residents that could have meant nearly 250,000 more. Illinois now has 17 seats, or about 738,000 per district.

“Achieving an accurate count for all 50 states and DC is always a difficult endeavor, and these results suggest it was difficult again in 2020, particularly given the unprecedented challenges we faced,” Santos said in the release. “It is important to remember that the quality of the 2020 Census total population count is robust and consistent with that of recent censuses.

“However, we know there is still more work to do in planning future censuses to ensure equitable coverage across the United States and we are working to overcome any and all obstacles to achieve that goal.”

The consideration of a question about citizenship was seen by many as an attempt by the Trump administration to preclude undocumented immigrants from responding to the census and, thus, to inflate the population advantage of mostly white residents. The Supreme Court rejected the reason for the question, calling it “contrived,” but not until July 2019 did the administration finally drop the idea, which played into the delayed count and results.