Census: Low Response Rate May Cost Republicans Congressional SeatsSubmitted by bobbyw24 on Mon, 03/29/2010 - 11:51
WASHINGTON — Texas is counting on the 2010 Census to deliver four new congressional districts, four new Electoral College votes in presidential elections, and millions of dollars in additional federal aid. But, as some elected officials are starting to worry, Uncle Sam can't deliver anything to the rapidly growing Sun Belt state unless Texas residents deliver their forms back to the government.
As of Friday afternoon, only 27 percent of Texas households had filled in and returned their census forms — well below the national average of 34 percent — according to computer data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In Harris County, the response rate is 23 percent. Houston's returns are running at 21 percent.
Contrary to historical trends, some of the toughest challenges facing the agency responsible for measuring the nation's population are not from counting the traditionally undercounted groups such as African-Americans and Latinos. Instead, a new and growing threat to an accurate national head count is coming from anti-government conservatives who may not fill out their forms to protest against “Big Brother” in Washington.
“There's a general distrust of the federal government at every level, starting with Congress and the president, all the way down to executive branch agencies,” says Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland.
Low return rates
Polling by the Pew Research Center finds Democrats are more likely than other Americans to view the census as “very important” to the country. Seventy-six percent of Democrats call this year's count very important, compared with 61 percent of Republicans and independents.
In Texas, some of the counties with the lowest census return rates are among the state's most Republican, including Briscoe County in the Panhandle, 8 percent; King County, near Lubbock, 5 percent; Culberson County, near El Paso, 11 percent; and Newton County, in deep East Texas, 18 percent. Most other counties near the bottom of the list are heavily Hispanic counties along the Texas-Mexico border.
There is a reason for the enthusiasm gap on the census: A number of prominent conservative and libertarian Republicans have been blasting the census for months.
Criticism from Ron Paul
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., began the barrage last year when she asserted — incorrectly — that the information reported by Americans could be used for nefarious governmental ends, such as imprisonment in internment camps.
Earlier this month, Texas Rep. Ron Paul voted against a congressional resolution asking Americans to participate in the census.
“The invasive nature of the current census raises serious questions about how and why government will use the collected information,” the Lake Jackson Republican recently said. “It also demonstrates how the federal bureaucracy consistently encourages citizens to think of themselves in terms of groups, rather than as individual Americans. ”
Houston-area GOP lawmakers say anti-census feelings run deep among their constituents.
“People are concerned about the apparent intrusive nature of the census,” said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble. “People are very concerned that the government is going too far.”
Still, Poe said, he tells his concerned constituents that they should answer the census because “it's the law.”
What's more, he added, “it's very important for people to fill out the census because of reapportionment and redistricting — and Texas stands to gain four (House) seats.”
But Texas can only get those seats, and the congressional clout that comes with it, if Texans stand up to be counted. Any conservative revolt would only reduce the representation in conservative areas of the
state, such as rural Texas and the outer rings of suburbs surrounding its largest cities.
Loss of seats and money