Republican-led states made gains in this week’s census count, but one conservative activist says they should have been larger, and he is questioning shifts in the numbers over the past four months coinciding with the Biden administration’s watch.
Stephen Moore at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity said the numbers released by the Census Bureau on Monday were much rosier for blue states than they were for red states when compared with the estimates the bureau produced in December. He and E.J. Antoni, who collaborated on the analysis, called the data “very fishy.”
Blue states ended up with 2.5 million more people than they were projected to have just four months ago, and red states had a half-million people fewer.
The result was that red states netted fewer seats in the U.S. House over the next decade than had been anticipated.
The authors acknowledged that it’s only circumstantial evidence but said the lopsided nature of the changes in favoring Democratic states is ringing “alarm bells.”
“Was the Census Bureau count rigged?” Mr. Moore and Mr. Antoni said. “Was it manipulated by the Biden team to hand more seats to the Democrats and to get more money — federal spending is often allocated based on population — for the blue states?”
The December estimate was based on projections from the 2010 census, birth and death records and the American Community Survey, an ongoing census of a small sample of people each year.
Blue states with big population gains compared with the estimates were Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. The census showed big drops in red-tinged Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
The data released Monday is the official enumeration, based on counting, of how many residents there were and where they lived on April 1, 2020.
The numbers released this week are used to “apportion,” or divvy up, seats in the House. Based on the changes, seven states each lost a seat. Texas gained two seats, and five other states gained one each.
If the December projections held true, Texas would have gained three seats, Florida two — instead of ending up with one — and Arizona one. It did not get one.
By contrast, New York was projected to lose two seats — it lost one — and Rhode Island was expected to lose one of its two seats, but it didn’t lose any.
Mr. Moore’s suggestion of malfeasance was rejected by professor Carolyn Liebler at the University of Minnesota, who said the likely explanation for the disparity is the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said the December estimates include projections of migration patterns, but the actual counting ran from April 1 into the fall. Much of the country was under shutdown or stay-at-home orders, upending seasonal travel patterns.
“The problem is we had a pandemic in a census,” she said.
She said the methods used to reach the December number are significantly different from the methods to reach the official tally, so differences in the two counts are normal.
Census Bureau officials, during a virtual press conference Monday, were prodded on why the December numbers didn’t bear out. They repeated frequent cautions about why folks shouldn’t read too much into the December estimates.
Acting Census Director Ron S. Jarmin also said the country just wasn’t growing as fast over the past decade.
“And I think that some folks’ projections might have been based on slightly higher population growth projections,” he said.
That would not, however, account for the regional differences Mr. Moore and Mr. Antoni found between Democratic-leaning states and Republican-tilted states.
The Census Bureau didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article.
Mr. Moore and Mr. Antoni said that in 2010, every state’s actual count was within 0.4% of the previous estimate, and 30 were within 0.2%. This time, 19 states were off by a full percentage point, eight were off by 2% and New York and New Jersey were off by more than 4%.
The results weren’t monolithic. The count for Alabama, a deep-red state, came in more than 2% higher than the December number. The number for Nevada, a blue-tinged state, came in significantly lower than in December.
For the most part, the pattern was that the lower numbers were in Republican-led states and the higher numbers were in Democratic-led states.
“Maybe the 2010 estimates were abnormally accurate, or maybe the 2020 estimates were abnormally inaccurate,” the analysts said. “The Census Bureau needs to tell Congress how these revisions under Biden were so much larger than normal and so weighted in one direction: toward the blue states.”
It’s not just Mr. Moore who is questioning the numbers.
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials called the apportionment count “surprising,” given states with large Hispanic populations such as Texas, Florida and Arizona didn’t gain the seats anticipated.
Arturo Vargas, the organization’s CEO, said he will reserve judgment until more detailed data is released later this year. But he said states that poured money into getting people to respond to the census appeared to have done better in meeting the projections than states that didn’t spend.
The New York Immigration Coalition said the “herculean” efforts by activists helped keep the count in New York high, avoiding the worst-case scenario of losing two seats.
“We weathered the storm and kept up census participation rates despite the Trump administration’s blatant attacks on immigrant New Yorkers, through efforts like the citizenship question,” said Murad Awawdeh, the group’s executive director.
Ms. Liebler, the Minnesota professor, said the citizenship question, which President Trump sought to add to the 2020 questionnaire, may explain some of the differences between blue states and red states.
Even though Mr. Trump failed, Ms. Liebler said, immigrants were likely frightened away from answering the census. She said states such as New York, with a more welcoming message for immigrants, were able to blunt that better than Republican-led states.
“The fact that it’s a conservative state that has a very anti-immigrant stance means it would actually have the impact of keeping people away from the census,” she said about the red states.