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Organizations worry over Latino undercount in redrawn district elections

2020 Census
Posted at 6:46 PM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 22:38:50-04

With California's Primary Election coming up on June 7, some organizations worry that undercounted communities in newly redrawn districts will not be accurately represented. This is the first election cycle using Census data from 2020.

The U.S. Census Bureau 2020 Post-enumeration Survey Estimation Report found that “the 2020 Census did not have a significant net coverage error rate.”

However, if broken down by demographics, Latinos were undercounted by 4.99%, an increase from 1.54% in 2010. Whereas Non-Hispanic Whites were overcounted by 1.6%, an increase from 0.8% in 2010.

“The migratory nature of the work that the farmworker community does made them hard to count as well as often times, their housing arrangements are informal housing,” said Victor Espinosa, the Director of Wellness Programs for Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP).

Espinosa also led Census efforts to encourage community members in Santa Maria to fill out the Census.

"[Going to] areas where our community, in particular Latino and Indigenous migrant communities, complete their daily living activities like shopping, completing laundry, going to the park, at their worksites where farmworkers do their labor,” explained Espinosa.

Although it was not included in the U.S. Census, there was also the controversial citizenship question proposed by the Trump administration.

“That added a lot of confusion and fear among Latino community members, and we know that led people to be fearful of Census participation and added to the undercount,” said Juan Rosa, NALEO Educational Fund’s National Director of Civic Engagement.

Census data plays a huge role in the electoral system, which is why NALEO Educational Fund began its campaign to get as many Latinos counted as possible three years before the 2020 Census.

“How much representation California and other states get in the U.S. House in terms of the number of House seats and then within states, it determines how lines are drawn to produce a legislative and local county board and local city council districts that are of equal population size,” explained Clayton Nall, UCSB’s Political Science Associate Professor.

MICOP and NALEO Educational Fund both worry about the impact this undercount will have on the primary elections.

“The immigrant community continues to be underrepresented in our districts and there is, of course, a lot of needs that are being unmet despite the vast economic contribution that our communities make locally in Santa Barbara County and throughout California,” added Espinosa.

In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau recorded 50.5 million people of Hispanic or Latino origin nationwide, but in 2020, that number grew to 62 million.

“Sixteen out of the 52 Congressional seats in California have a Latino voter population of 50% or more,” added Rosa.

District 24, representing Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, is not on that list. Latino representation is 25.27%.

Organizations are reminding Latinos to use their political voice and exercise their civic duty to vote.

“Immigrant and Indigenous communities should vote because it is our right to do so, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the future of our communities are represented by our electoral system,” said Espinosa.

Moving forward, NALEO Educational Fund is asking the U.S. Census Bureau to clarify the race and ethnicity question and to use technology to ensure the participation of more Latinos.

KSBY News reached out to the U.S. Census Bureau but did not receive a response by the time this story aired.

As the election cycle approaches, MICOP is using its radio station, Radio Indígena 94.1, to better inform voters about the elections.

NALEO Educational Fund has a bilingual hotline to answer election-related questions. The number is 1-888-839-8682. Those interested can also text “GOVOTE” to 97779 or “VEYVOTA” to 97779.