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May 23, 2022, 8:22 a.m. EDT

The population of Illinois is growing. The census showed it shrinking. It’s one of six states significantly undercounted in 2020.

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“Get-out-the-count efforts can make a big difference, even when your community has poor internet access and is less likely to answer the census,” said Plyer, chief demographer of The Data Center in New Orleans.

Florida’s undercount translates into around 750,600 missed residents, and an analysis by Election Data Services shows the Sunshine State needed only around 171,500 more residents to gain an extra seat. The undercount in Texas translates into around 560,000 residents, while the analysis put Texas as needing only 189,000 more residents to gain another congressional seat.

A caveat is that the Post-Enumeration Survey didn’t include people living in group quarters such as college dorms or prisons nor remote areas of Alaska.

Hispanics make up more than a quarter of Florida’s population and almost 40% of Texas residents, and critics say the Trump administration’s failed efforts to add a citizenship question to the census form may have had a chilling effect on the participation of Hispanics, immigrants and others.

From the archives (September 2021): Texas Republicans take hard right turn as Democrats see demographics shifting in their direction

Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO Educational Fund, said there was a “desperate need” for information about undercounts and overcounts of racial and ethnic groups at geographies smaller than states, especially in places like Texas where the undercount most likely was in the Hispanic population.

Given the inaccuracies in the count, there is a real risk of an unfair distribution of congressional seats among the states, he said. “Without knowing below the state level, we aren’t able to understand the extent of that error,” Vargas said.

Minnesota was allocated the 435th and final congressional seat in the House of Representatives; if Minnesota had counted 26 fewer people, that seat would have gone to New York. Minnesota’s 3.8% overcount amounted to around 219,000 residents.

Other states with overcounts were Hawaii, at almost 6.8%; Delaware, at 5.4%; New York, at 3.4%; Utah, at almost 2.6%; Massachusetts, at 2.2%; and Ohio, at almost 1.5%.

Eugene Tian, Hawaii’s chief state economist, said people with vacation homes likely were counted in Hawaii while waiting out the pandemic instead of at their homes on the U.S. mainland. Another explanation is that students and relatives of residents who were in Hawaii for spring break in 2020 didn’t return to the mainland before pandemic-related lockdowns and were counted in the Aloha State, said Peter Fuleky, an economist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

In Rhode Island, the 5% overcount translates into more than 55,000 residents. It would have lost a seat if 19,000 fewer residents had been counted, according to Election Data Services.

John Marion, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Rhode Island, said it was difficult to pinpoint exactly why Rhode Island had such a large overcount. There were significant outreach efforts and the state has a large summer home population, but the same applied to other states, he said.

“We’re essentially the lucky beneficiary of a statistical anomaly,” Marion said. “And as a result, we’ll have more representation in Congress for 10 years.”

MarketWatch contributed.

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