Michael Macagnone

2020 census begins! Decennial headcount starts in Alaska
Effort starts in remote villages before residents disperse for seasonal work in spring

By snowmobile and small plane, the 2020 census starts Tuesday in Alaska, facing the same language barriers and government trust issues that will make the count difficult on the U.S. mainland on top of actual physical obstacles like the rugged terrain where most of the state lies off the road system.

The geography of Toksook Bay, a fishing village on Alaska’s western coast that’s hosting the first count, shows the difficulty of counting the state’s residents. Many of the state’s villages, including Toksook Bay, can only be accessed by boat, plane or snowmobile. The effort starts in Alaska midwinter to count residents there before they disperse for seasonal work in the spring. 

Reapportionment could force a Rhode Island showdown
Smallest state projected to lose a House seat after 2020

This year’s census will likely prompt a political showdown between longtime members of Congress in the nation’s smallest state.

An analysis based on Census Bureau population projections has Rhode Island losing its second congressional seat in 2022, one of 10 states that could lose representation in Congress. The projections show a tight margin for the last few congressional seats, according to an analysis from Election Data Services. The Ocean State stands 14,000 residents shy of the seat, or about 1 percent of its population.

Citizenship question hangs over census preparations, panel told
Minority groups say fears linger even after question dropped by Trump administration

Although the Trump administration dropped a citizenship question from this year's census, minority groups told the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday that the question's specter has haunted preparations for a national count that could miss millions of residents.

John Yang, president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, called the citizenship question a “five-alarm fire” for groups working with immigrants. He said lingering fear could potentially reduce immigrant participation in a count that will determine the distribution of 435 congressional seats and influence the flow of $1.5 trillion in federal funds annually. Census operations formally begin later this month, and Yang and other committee witnesses said the agency has not done enough to counter the damage caused by the debate.

Reapportionment after census could shake up swing districts
Latest Census Bureau estimates hint at which states may gain or lose seats

Candidates and political parties have started multimillion-dollar struggles for control of congressional districts that, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data, may not exist in two years.

The latest Census Bureau population estimates suggest that a handful of states, including Illinois, California and New York, may lose seats in Congress after the 2020 count. That could make victories in some of the hardest-fought congressional races fleeting, a rare occurrence in an institution that favors incumbents, as newly minted representatives find themselves out of a job just two years later.

Census estimates: Redistricting ahead for California, New York and Texas
Projections suggest AZ, CO, FL, MT, NC, OR and TX could gain seats

The Census Bureau gave a peek at a coming battle within states nationwide over the shape of the country’s congressional district map, with its latest population estimates hinting at fights within Texas, New York, California, Alabama and other states.

Those estimates give demographers and mapmakers the last hint of how the 2020 census will divvy up 435 congressional seats nationwide before the agency releases the official results later this year. The results will determine winners and losers for both the distribution of the districts as well as $1.5 trillion in federal funds each year.

Census effort gets $7.6 billion funding, ‘friended’ by Facebook
Spending bill passed on same day Facebook pledges to remove false census posts, ads

The Census Bureau got a slew of new tools Thursday in preparation for next year’s census count, making congressional allies and advocates cautiously optimistic about the effort. 

The same day Congress sent the White House a sweeping spending package that includes $7.6 billion for the Census Bureau, Facebook announced it would remove incorrect or misleading census information from its platform next year. The social media giant’s announcement follows steps by Google and the Census Bureau itself to keep online outreach efforts on track for the 2020 count.

Researchers warn census privacy efforts may muddy federal data
Latest test creates ‘absurd outcomes’: households with 90 people and graveyards populated with the living

Steps taken by the Census Bureau to protect individual responses may muddy cancer research, housing policy, transportation planning, legislative map-drawing and health care policy, researchers have warned the agency.

The problems come from a new policy — differential privacy — that adds “noise” to census data to help prevent outside attackers from identifying individuals among public data. However, the agency’s latest test of the policy created what researchers called absurd outcomes: households with 90 people and graveyards populated with the living. Such results could skew a count used to redistribute political power and $1.5 trillion in federal spending nationwide.

Congress poised to pass paid parental leave for federal workers
Could the measure spur wider action in the private sector?

About 2 million federal employees are about to be guaranteed 12 weeks of paid parental leave under a bill soon to be signed into law by President Donald Trump, but several experts say the cost of such a benefit may discourage Democrats’ hopes of it spurring broader adoption in private industry.

The provision, folded into a defense bill months in the working, would give all federal civilian employees three months of paid leave for the birth, adoption or fostering of a child. Democrats originally pushed for a broader set of benefits to cover family relations and illnesses but praised the measure’s inclusion. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, who chairs the Oversight and Reform Committee, touted the provision as “long overdue.”  

Oversight panel sues Barr, Ross over census subpoenas
Committee probe into failed effort to add citizenship question continues

The House Oversight and Reform Committee has picked a court fight with the Trump administration, filing a lawsuit Tuesday to enforce subpoenas for documents sought in the panel’s investigation of the failed effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

In the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, the panel asks that Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross be ordered to comply with subpoenas issued as part of its investigation. The committee argues it needs the information to make sure the administration has not undermined the decennial count used to apportion federal representation and more than $1.5 trillion in annual federal spending.

Census gets funding boost in stopgap bill
The money provides greater surety going into next year's count

The stopgap funding measure Congress passed Thursday provides $7.3 billion for the Census Bureau, giving next year’s count the resources some lawmakers and advocates have sought for months.

The measure matches an earlier Senate version of the funding bill that would have given the agency $6.7 billion for census operations and exceeds the $5.3 billion requested by President Donald Trump’s administration. Democrats in Congress, skeptical of the administration, had pushed for more funding for the count, which will be used to help decide political representation and to divvy up about $1.5 trillion in federal spending annually.

Blame game in standoff over Violence Against Women Act
Ernst says Democrats motivated by her 2020 race; Schumer calls her ‘afraid of NRA’

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said Tuesday that Democrats trying to undermine her 2020 reelection contributed to stalled talks to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Ernst had been working with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California for months on a bipartisan reauthorization bill before both sides said the negotiations fell apart earlier this month.

New census data: About 1 million same-sex households in US
Same-sex married and unmarried couples make up about 1 percent of all homes

The Census Bureau estimates about 1 million same-sex married and unmarried couples are living together nationwide, according to new figures released Tuesday.

Same-sex households make up about 1 percent of all homes, according to data released as part of the Current Population Survey and the first time such figures were included in its main results. The estimates provide a limited glimpse into the LGBTQ population in America, which has not shown up in federal surveys for much of the nation’s history.

Senate Democrats pick fight over gun provisions in VAWA
Bipartisan talks broke down over renewing law aimed at curbing domestic violence

Senate Democrats on Wednesday introduced the same Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill passed by the House, days after they say talks with Republicans about a compromise broke down over controversial gun provisions.  

The entire Democratic caucus has backed the bill, which has provisions restricting gun rights of certain convicts that helped spur the split with Senate Republicans. While promoting the measure during a news conference Wednesday, Democrats blamed the National Rifle Association’s sway in the chamber for the Republicans’ reluctance to back the bill.

Facebook, other social media sites pressured to protect census
Members of Congress are pushing social media companies like Facebook to protect the census from disinformation

Members of Congress are increasing pressure on social media companies to protect next year’s census from disinformation online, concerned that foreign governments and internet trolls could disrupt the 2020 enumeration.

The latest push comes in a letter the Congressional Asian-Pacific American Caucus sent Thursday to Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, asking her to speak with group members about steps to both promote the census and “combat interference and disinformation on its platform.” Russia or another country may try to push the census off course, they say, and Facebook and other companies should be prepared.

Senate talks on crafting bipartisan Violence Against Women Act break down
Iowa's Ernst to push her own bill, calls House version ‘nonstarter’

Bipartisan Senate talks over a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act fell apart this week, Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said in a floor speech Thursday.

Ernst said she’ll introduce her own version of the bill that can pass the Republican-controlled Senate and gain the support of President Donald Trump. The House, controlled by Democrats, passed a version of the bill in April.

Most Republicans on impeachment committees aren’t showing up, transcripts reveal
Freedom Caucus members have taken lead role in questioning, foreshadowing public hearings

Republicans have for weeks blasted the closed-door impeachment process, but transcripts released this week of private depositions show most GOP lawmakers on the three panels at the center of the probe have simply not shown up.

The low attendance for most committee Republicans paints a very different picture of a party that recently stormed the secure room where the depositions have been conducted, demanding to participate in the process. Republican questioning during these private interviews have been driven by a handful of President Donald Trump’s allies and GOP staff.

Shrinking congressional districts look for federal help
Some districts may have lost 30,000 or more people through 2018

Despite explosive growth in other areas of the country since 2010, about 80 congressional districts have lost significant population over the decade — leaving many looking for help from the federal government. 

Some districts may have lost 30,000 or more people through 2018, many of them in manufacturing and mining areas in the Northeast, according to Census Bureau data released last month. Most of those districts are represented by Democrats but located in states President Donald Trump won in 2016 by promising new trade deals that have since taken a back seat in Washington.

Shrinking congressional districts look for federal help
Some districts may have lost 30,000 or more people through 2018

Despite explosive growth in other areas of the country since 2010, about 80 congressional districts have lost significant population over the decade — leaving many looking for help from the federal government. 

Some districts may have lost 30,000 or more people through 2018, many of them in manufacturing and mining areas in the Northeast, according to Census Bureau data released last month. Most of those districts are represented by Democrats but located in states President Donald Trump won in 2016 by promising new trade deals that have since taken a back seat in Washington.

Commerce watchdog will monitor efforts to keep 2020 census secure
GAO and lawmakers have raised security concerns over Census Bureau’s IT systems

The Commerce Department’s internal watchdog will take a look at the Census Bureau’s efforts to keep the 2020 census secure, the inspector general said in a letter Thursday.

The announcement follows a trail of security concerns about Census Bureau systems for next year’s count from the Government Accountability Office and members of Congress. Next year’s census will allow an online response option for most of the country for the first time, along with traditional mail and phone response.

Survey: Young adults, minorities less likely to participate in the census
Pew survey finds blacks, adults under 30 and people with less money aren’t as likely to respond to the 2020 count

A significant portion of Americans said they may not participate in next year’s census, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Friday that has implications for the 2020 count’s cost, as well as its uses for redistricting and distribution of federal funds.

More than one in five younger adults, those making less than $30,000 and those identifying as black said they definitely will not, probably will not or might not participate in the census, according to the Pew report. Its results reflect similar outcomes to surveys conducted before and during the 2010 census, said one of the authors of the report, D’Vera Cohn.