Census decision could shift more power to cities

posted at 11:36 am on February 12, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

The Obama administration has made a subtle but important change in the timing of Census Bureau reports involving prisoners, one long sought by big cities that farm out their prisoners to the hinterlands.  The Census will now report prison counts based on home residency of each prisoner back to states before redistricting decisions are made.  The change could allow cities to fight in redistricting efforts to shift power to large urban areas in Congressional redistricting — a move that would tend to help Democrats gain more seats in Congress:

Prisoners will soon be bigger players in those high-stakes redistricting fights, even if unwittingly, thanks to a change in federal policy governing how they’re to be counted in the 2010 census.

Prison populations have historically been included in national headcounts, but now Census officials will make data on inmate populations available to states earlier than in the past.

This change will allow states to decide whether to count inmates for purposes of redistricting. If a state makes that choice, it would have to decide where inmates should be considered residents — in rural towns, where prisons are often built, or in cities, where many prisoners come from.

Until now, the bureau provided breakdowns on group quarters, like prisons, only after states had finished their redistricting. That resulted in districts with prisons getting extra representation in their legislatures, despite laws in some states that say a prison cell is not a residence.

Several years ago, the New York Times editorial board adopted this as a hobby horse in a fact-challenged crusade to count felons in their home cities.  Until now, no one has heard much about the issue since, but the motives here are obvious.  Most large cities do not maintain prisons in their jurisdictions, but farm prisoners out to rural areas.  The move allows cities to shed the burden of costs and security, as well as use valuable real estate for tax-generating purposes, while delivering a mixed bag of revenue opportunities and security risks for the local residents.

The cities basically want to eat their cake and have it, too.  They want credit for the prison population without actually having to house and maintain the prisoners.  The Times cast the status quo ante as some sort of Republican plot to steal representation (and federal government largesse) from urban areas, with one of its columnists at the time claiming that mandatory sentencing and three-strikes laws were part of a Republican conspiracy to steal both from Democrats in urban areas.

The solution to this was obvious: New York City could have built its own prison and housed its own reprobates, as could Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Denver, and so on.  (Major cities maintain jails for processing criminal defendants and short sentences, but not usually prisons for longer-term convicts.)  As it is, though, the cities routinely transfer the costs and burdens of prisoners outside of their jurisdictions.  There is no justification for granting them credit for the prisoners as residents of the cities, because quite literally, they aren’t residing there while they’re in prison.  States can pass all the laws they want, but it doesn’t change the laws of physics: a prisoner locked up for several years in one place cannot be said to be residing simultaneously miles away.

The Census Bureau now wants to play along with the cities to make it easier for them to demand redistricting that favors them next year, based on phantom populations that obviously are nowhere near where the cities claim.  That will bear watching in each state as the Census Bureau reports its data and the states start working on drawing new maps for Congressional districts.


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Said it before, and I’ll say it again:

If the city pays solely for the incarceration, the city can have them counted as residents. If the state taxpayers at large pay, count them in the county where they are housed.

Please, crr6, refute that argument.

Doorgunner on February 12, 2010 at 2:38 PM

And if they’re Federal prisoners, count them as DC residents.

Doorgunner on February 12, 2010 at 2:39 PM

You crap-weasel.

Doorgunner on February 12, 2010 at 2:40 PM

Great. Then you agree with us that illegal immigrants should not be counted as citizens

The census counts people – not citizens, not eligible voters, not adults, etc. etc. – Just people. General population.

dieudonne on February 12, 2010 at 2:41 PM

My understanding is that ILLEGAL immigrants will also be counted in the 2010 census.

ILLEGAL immigrants can’t vote, but they will have an impact on your congressional representation.
For example, Sanctuary Cities like San Francisco will report a higher population than it would have if the city enforced the country’s immigration laws.

With a higher inner city population, people like Nancy Pelosi have a safer seat, because her district is concentrated in the inner city, rather than having to represent a larger geographic area that would include more homeowners and professionals.

The census will count residents as of April 1. I don’t expect to see much immigration enforcement before that date.

wren on February 12, 2010 at 2:48 PM

OT:
Which census questions are Constitutional and for which should we write “unconstitutional question” as an answer?

NTWR on February 12, 2010 at 2:29 PM

Well .. the constitution says:

The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.

It appears that if congress has directed them to gather statistical information then that is constitutional. I suppose you could plead a right to avoid self-incrimination but that would probably attract unwelcome attention.

dieudonne on February 12, 2010 at 2:54 PM

Here’s a charming story about a bunch of people we’ll be feeding and caring for quite awhile:

‘Friends’ torture, kill disabled woman
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/12/AR2010021201815.html

But hey, let’s get out in front of feeling sorry for them because life in prison for them isn’t going to be a bowl full of cherries.

Millions of dollars to defend just these six POS and to keep them alive for decades. Unbelievable.

NoDonkey on February 12, 2010 at 2:55 PM

But hey, let’s get out in front of feeling sorry for them because life in prison for them isn’t going to be a bowl full of cherries.

One doesn’t have to feel sorry for them to say that they remain humans and shouldn’t be executed casually or cavalierly. Cavalier wouldn’t seem to be a bad description of many of the calls here.

dieudonne on February 12, 2010 at 2:58 PM

dieudonne on February 12, 2010 at 2:58 PM

I’d be OK with a formal execution.

They remain human?

I disagree. Anyone who commits crimes such as these forfeits their right to humanity.

If a baby in the womb that never harmed anyone is a “fetus” and not human according to our law, then scum like this isn’t human either.

Justice would require that they all be tried and executed within one week.

We don’t have a justice system, we have a system that allows people like this to prey on the weak and then to squeal for “mercy” once they are nabbed.

NoDonkey on February 12, 2010 at 3:02 PM

I disagree. Anyone who commits crimes such as these forfeits their right to humanity.

Very good. Now get a law saying that passed. More power to you. Until then they remain human beings under our laws and should be treated as such.

dieudonne on February 12, 2010 at 3:12 PM

dieudonne on February 12, 2010 at 3:12 PM

I agree it’s the law and it will likely remain that way.

And because of it, innocent people will die by the hands of criminals (that we could have been rid of) and we’ll spend billions taking care of those same criminals.

But hey, we as a society have the courage it takes to allow physicians to eviscerate infants in the womb, so we have that going for us.

NoDonkey on February 12, 2010 at 3:19 PM

And because of it, innocent people will die by the hands of criminals (that we could have been rid of) and we’ll spend billions taking care of those same criminals.

I’m fine with paying to maintain prisons. I don’t expect criminals to disappear from any human society so prisons are a good long-term investment. And if they are safely behind bars then innocent people shouldn’t be dieing at their hands.

dieudonne on February 12, 2010 at 3:27 PM

dieudonne on February 12, 2010 at 3:27 PM

The benefit of keeping this people alive is, what exactly?

And it costs tens of billions every year to do so.

We do that calculation for other segments of the population who haven’t committed any crime and they come up short.

But the rapists, the murderers, the drug pushers?

Coddled.

NoDonkey on February 12, 2010 at 3:40 PM

The benefit of keeping this people alive is, what exactly?

And it costs tens of billions every year to do so.

We do that calculation for other segments of the population who haven’t committed any crime and they come up short.

But the rapists, the murderers, the drug pushers?

Coddled.

NoDonkey on February 12, 2010 at 3:40 PM

Your reasoning seems to assume that every convicted felon is irredeemable and deserves to die. If convicted, James O’Keefe would be a felon simply for entering a federal building on false pretenses, and “interfering with a phone line”. Should he be put to death? Which felons should be executed then? Where do you draw the line? Getting caught selling weed 3 times can make you a felon in some states. Should they be executed? (if so, I’m sure many commenters here would be put to death in your ideal world).

And you also seem to have absolutely no faith on our prison system as a force for rehabilitation as well as punishment. Many learn their lessons from prison, and end up contributing to society. There’s a story in the news now of a former bank robber who became good at working the appeals process while in prison. He’ll probably attend Michigan Law School (ranked 9th in the nation) next year.

crr6 on February 12, 2010 at 3:47 PM

Solution: send all prisoners to Texas, Texas gets all the votes, we’ll straighten out the mess, and you can all go back to sleep.

Robert17 on February 12, 2010 at 3:55 PM

crr6 on February 12, 2010 at 3:47 PM

I’m sure a few are redeemed and live worthwhile lives (although I disagree that we need any more lawyers, that is at least a paying profession).

The percentage of rehabilitated violent criminals is infintismal and pales to the havoc these people create, the lives they ruin and the innocent people they prey upon, in the aggregate.

Commit two violent felonies and the death penalty is warranted. Tapping phone lines is not a violent felony. I’m not talking property crimes.

And really, I don’t feel ours is a merciful society, we have mercy on these prison turds, because they can’t be hidden away. They have families, friends, etc.

Meanwhile, a “doctor” can eviscerate a child in the womb, but that’s OK because we don’t have to see it. We can have the severed limbs hidden from view and we can easily pretend that the child never existed. It did.

Accepting the latter as an ever day routine occurance while holding out hope for the one prisoner in 10,000 that isn’t absolutely worthless, doesn’t make you merciful in the aggregate.

NoDonkey on February 12, 2010 at 4:02 PM

The benefit of keeping this people alive is, what exactly?

And it costs tens of billions every year to do so.

Coddled.

NoDonkey on February 12, 2010 at 3:40 PM

 
Only because We the People allow it. I’m very anti death penalty IF we stop providing cable TV, libraries, heat and AC beyond 60 in the winter and 90 in the summer, lights other than natural lighting, and any other entertainment that involves more than “1-2-3-4 I declare a thumb war”. They’d be cheap to house then, and let extreme boredom be part of their sentence.
 
Oh, and no fried food. A vegetarian lifestyle (but cheap canned or almost out-of-date veggies, not fresh) and forced exercise so they’ll live a nice long time.
 
Sit. Wait. Sleep. Wake. Repeat.

rogerb on February 12, 2010 at 4:05 PM

Is this really a big deal? It might give cities 1 whole new representative to spread amongst themselves (the entire prison population would get all of 3 reps, take out those not from cities, those not moved, how many are left?), who will be gerrymandered out of existence now and then. It might move federal funds around or something, and give cities all of 1% more.

Commit two violent felonies and the death penalty is warranted. Tapping phone lines is not a violent felony. I’m not talking property crimes.

NoDonkey on February 12, 2010 at 4:02 PM

I often wonder how much longer developed society can continue with the growing numbers of people who prefer less productive and destructive activities (not just crime). We’ve been rich enough to deal with the relatively smaller numbers so far, but as their numbers grow something will have to give.

This also applies to Europe with sanction drug use, lack of child bearing/marriage and unsustainable pensions/benefits, and even Japan where they have a growing problem with graduate degree holders choosing to just be a store clerk because they aren’t having kids or marrying so it allows for a good life. Of course that’s because older people are working like crazy to provide the accoutrements of a good life at a low price.

Anyhow, I’m not optimistic myself.

jarodea on February 12, 2010 at 4:55 PM

This is disturbing, to say the least.

Putting the Bureau of the Census under the White House was a totalitarian, fascist move.

Dhuka on February 12, 2010 at 4:59 PM

Just add this to the list for the November revolution. Sigh. It never ends.

FalseProfit on February 12, 2010 at 6:41 PM

Several years ago, the New York Times editorial board adopted this as a hobby horse in a fact-challenged crusade to count felons in their home cities.

Considering the rate of recidivism, most felons spend more time in prison than they do in their home cities. Thus, the location of the prison should be considered their home city.

Disturb the Universe on February 12, 2010 at 6:58 PM

Arnold wants to send prisoners to Mexico to save money. I say send them to China.

And a few of the Mao fans in the White House can tag along, too.

IlikedAUH2O on February 12, 2010 at 7:44 PM

There is no justification for granting them credit for the prisoners as residents of the cities, because quite literally, they aren’t residing there while they’re in prison. States can pass all the laws they want, but it doesn’t change the laws of physics: a prisoner locked up for several years in one place cannot be said to be residing simultaneously miles away.

Now wait a second… many Congresscritters spend most of their time at homes in DC and yet claim residence in the home State. Just by the amount of time they spend in their DC homes they would be residents…

Of course Congresscritters get to write the laws for DC so they don’t worry about that. This points to the problem that Congress spends way too much time in session and Congresscritters spend way too much time in DC because of that. Instead of the current 3-day weekends Congress enjoys why don’t they just send everyone home for 3 weeks out of 4? Then they would have a chance to be ‘real’ residents back home instead of ghost residents that spend their actual, corporeal time in DC.

But if it works for felons it works for Congresscritters.

Strange, that.

ajacksonian on February 12, 2010 at 7:52 PM

Prisoners don’t get to vote they ought not to count in the census while they are incarcerated.

johnsteele on February 12, 2010 at 11:51 AM

And children under 18 can’t vote either. I guess they shouldn’t be counted in the census.

Likewise, people not registered to vote can’t vote. I suppose they shouldn’t be counted.

You really haven’t thought this through, have you?

The fact is that prisoners, even those serving life sentences, are still citizens of the US and as such must be counted in the census.

JohnGalt23 on February 12, 2010 at 8:01 PM

Obama knows who his most loyal constituents get 3 hots and a cot. Them peoples too.

JohnBissell on February 12, 2010 at 8:51 PM

So cities with policies/politics and cultural issues that creat/enable/encourage the highest crime rates get rewarded?

Great lesson to teach the next generation :/

aikidoka on February 12, 2010 at 10:58 PM

That’s ok, Obama and his team will be residing in one of those establishments sooner than they realize.

ray on February 13, 2010 at 3:52 AM

Not that this is news to anyone here, but the Census Bureau doesn’t even know what its real job is. Their reps go around telling folks that the public needs to participate in the census because “that’s how we determine what neighborhoods get federal money.” Which is, unfortunately, true in current practice. But that isn’t what our Constitution says the census is for. According to Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3, the census is for the apportionment of the House of Representatives and direct taxes.

pugwriter on February 13, 2010 at 6:14 AM

Only demoncrates can use the poor, imprisoned, and disadvantaged as political pawns to win their chess game. A game they use to appear superior to U.S. checker players of America.

MSGTAS on February 13, 2010 at 10:02 AM

I often wonder how much longer developed society can continue with the growing numbers of people who prefer less productive and destructive activities (not just crime).

Not much longer in a secular society that has a utilitarian view of life.

I maintain we’ve gone down that slope with abortion.

Really, what’s the point of wasting billions of dollars a year on prisoners? Most of them are miserable, unhappy people in or out of prison.

The vast majority of them, we’d be doing them a favor by executing them and we could spend the money on children who still have a chance.

NoDonkey on February 13, 2010 at 4:48 PM

I think pets ought to be counted in the census too. After all, don’t the libtards say they have rights too? And depending on whether one is conservative or progressive, dogs count more than cats. Or vice versa. Whatever means more for conservatives. Maybe I’ll start an ant-farm for my own pet so I can count them too.

Geofizz on February 14, 2010 at 2:03 PM

Oh, and Norweigan water dogs count -[value of current debt]. They’re not ‘merican neway.

Geofizz on February 14, 2010 at 2:05 PM

And, of course, felons are a big part of the Democrat vote.

WannabeAnglican on February 15, 2010 at 8:53 AM

Not that this is news to anyone here, but the Census Bureau doesn’t even know what its real job is. Their reps go around telling folks that the public needs to participate in the census because “that’s how we determine what neighborhoods get federal money.” Which is, unfortunately, true in current practice. But that isn’t what our Constitution says the census is for. According to Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3, the census is for the apportionment of the House of Representatives and direct taxes.

pugwriter on February 13, 2010 at 6:14 AM

That’s all true. I’m a manager in our local census office. Our Recruiters/Partnership people tell that to the general public because no one, including Conservatives, care about the Constitutional mandates; they only care about how it affects them, and federal grant money is the simplest thing people understand affecting them.

The majority of complaints on this blog or on conservative news shows about the Census have nothing to do with the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, or right and wrong. The complaints have to do with how the White House may have turned the Census into a political football, which is fine with many conservatives because we don’t want to cooperate with the Census anyway and this just gives us a good excuse not to.

Isolationism is not Conservative, nor is it Constitutional.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: everyone needs to be involved in the Census. Don’t cede it to the opposition. Reapportionment after the 2000 Census took 8 seats away from the Rust Belt and moved them to the Sun Belt. That’s a potential swing of +16 votes in the 2004 Presidential election.

Projected results of the 2010 Census are similar, unless someone can count people in those Rust Belt states that have never been counted before. Sun Belt reps are hoping that using the same counting strategies, they will be able to match the elevated (in comparison to earliest projections) count totals that are expected to come out of Rust Belt states.

So regardless of where you live, everyone needs to make sure you are being counted: the Census merely sets the table for the Elections later.

And frankly, that is its Constitutional purpose.

rwenger43 on February 15, 2010 at 10:55 AM

BTW, this decision will have zero effect on Federal reapportionment–only states’.

rwenger43 on February 15, 2010 at 11:16 AM

For the idiot crr6:

The census is a snapshot taken every ten years of where people live AT THE TIME. It is not some panoramic movie trilogy.

So if you happen to be lucky enough to be in college in Virginia in 2010, while you grew up in NY and your parents still live in NY, you reside and live and should be counted in VA. Boy, that’s a difficult concept to understand. Rocket science. Or what used to be rocket science before Obama gutted NASA.

It is amazing how dumb Dhims think the rest of country is.

RickZ on February 16, 2010 at 6:46 AM

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