Blame game underway after NY loses a Congressional seat

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday defended New York City’s 2020 Census outreach a day after the U.S. Census Bureau announced that New York will lose one seat in Congress based on the state’s census count.

"We built a massive grassroots apparatus, organizing apparatus, to go out there and achieve what a lot of people thought was impossible," de Blasio said.

Yet after the Census Bureau said on Monday that New York’s count fell 89 residents short of keeping its current amount of Representatives in Congress, Democratic mayoral primary candidate Shaun Donovan blamed De Blasio, tweeting that his "incompetence has cost our city dearly, and could cost Democrats the House."

De Blasio called that accusation "preposterous," and said the city matched its 2010 response rate despite obstacles like the coronavirus pandemic and President Trump’s unsuccessful effort to put a citizenship question on the census, which immigration advocates feared would suppress participation by the city’s undocumented population.

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Instead, the Mayor pointed his finger at the Governor.

"I think the state could have done more, I don't think the state moved the resources it should have at the time it should have to build the same kind of approach New York City did," de Blasio said.

But Michael Li, a redistricting expert and Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, said the political recriminations miss the good news.

"New York was projected or widely expected to lose 2 seats, and New York came close to keeping all of its seats," said Li.

In all, six states gained seats in Congress and seven states lost seats, affecting not only those states’ Congressional delegations but also their total electoral college votes and share of the $1.5 trillion dollars in federal funding Congress annually allocates among the states.

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And there’s still more information to come from the Census Bureau this summer.

"In mid-August, we will get the block-level granular data about where people live and their race, age, and ethnicity," said Li

That’s what states will use to redraw their Congressional districts beginning this fall, perhaps with an eye towards partisan advantage in the closely divided House of Representatives.  

"Given that Republicans will control key states like Texas, Georgia, and Florida," said Li, "New York is a chance for Democrats to offset some anticipated Republican gerrymandering in those states by doing a little bit of their own."

Democrats in Congress, however, are trying to end such partisan gerrymandering by either side as part of a sweeping democracy reform bill that passed the House last month, but is unlikely to receive any Republican support in the evenly-divided Senate, let alone enough to clear the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold.