Census nonsense

By counting illegal immigrants the same as citizens in the census, some states get more congressional seats than they deserve.

Richard Greener and George Kenney
Los Angeles Times
5/29/2010

Official political innumeracy, enshrined in the census, steals our democracy. We count illegal immigrants the same as citizens and assign states congressional seats accordingly. This awards some states more representatives than they deserve. The census should, instead, count citizens separately, and Congress should reapportion representatives only on the basis of citizen populations. That would ensure that the votes of citizens in all parts of the country are as nearly equal as possible.

Although this largely unrecognized problem doesn’t garner headlines, the failure to fix the census may have greater consequences as our political realities change. The unpleasantness in Arizona since it passed a tough immigration law is a likely prelude to infinitely more divisive conflicts.

The Constitution contains a mandate for a census. One of its stated objectives is to enable the proper apportionment of representation, state by state, in the House of Representatives. From the start, however, apportionment has been a mangled affair, a stain on our claim to be a true and fair representative democracy.

The deal worked out in Philadelphia in 1787 counted slaves as three-fifths of a person, even though they could not vote. The third U.S. Congress, meeting from 1793 to 1795, relied on the census of 1790 to apportion its 106 House members. Southern slave states were overrepresented by 10 seats as a result, after applying the three-fifths rule. No one even pretended that the slaves who accounted for those extra seats had any representation at all. The long-term consequences of such unfairness proved catastrophic.

The Civil War settled many issues, but democratic apportionment in Congress was not among them…

The article continues at the LA Times.

H/T Weasel Zippers.

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