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The Census – Where Citizens and Illegal Aliens Collide

If voting is a right of citizenship, why should non-citizens expect representation?

By:  |  June 1, 2024  |    740 Words
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(Photo by Randee Daddona/Newsday RM via Getty Images)

House Republicans have pushed a bill through that aims to add a citizenship question to the next census in 2030. The plan is to ask people if they’re citizens, legal non-citizen residents, or illegal immigrants, then only count the citizens when setting congressional districts. But Democrats are solidly against it, calling it everything from unfair and racist to overly expensive.

Apportionment by the Numbers

The current number of representatives in the US House is set at 435, where it has been since 1929. This is split among the 50 states relative to state populations. This total would only change if Congress passed a law to increase or decrease the overall size of the House. The distribution, however, can change every ten years after the census, when the new national population count shows which states have lost residents and which have gained. For example, after the 2020 census, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon each gained one seat and Texas gained two. Those seven House seats came from seven other states, each of which lost one: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

The Electoral College distribution is determined by the number of congressional seats – so the number of US representatives a state has plus two senators equals its number of presidential electors. Since there are 435 seats in the US House and 100 in the Senate, that means there are 535 electors spread out across the 50 states, plus three in Washington, DC, for a total of 538. The states that either gained or lost representatives after the last census also gained or lost an equal number of electors.

Fixing a Broken Census, or Playing Politics?

Currently, everyone counted by the census – citizens, non-citizen residents, and illegals alike – is counted toward the apportionment of congressional districts. If the GOP effort succeeds, non-citizens won’t count toward the total population for determining the spread of House seats and electors after the 2030 census, meaning the states with the highest concentration of undocumented residents stand to lose the most. According to the Pew Research Center, the states with the most non-citizens – the biggest losers, in this situation – are California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.

It’s important to note that the two red states on that list – Texas and Florida – are the two biggest contributors to Republican electors. Yes, the Democratic Party stands to lose more than a few representatives and presidential electors, but so does the GOP. Still, Democrats unanimously oppose this effort. The House passed the bill 206 to 202, split precisely along party lines. The only bipartisanship here were the 11 representatives from each party who didn’t vote.

The White House warned that this bill – which the president “strongly opposes” – would be costly and make it more difficult to obtain accurate data. “It would also violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, which requires that the number of seats in the House of Representatives ‘be apportioned among the several States according to their respective members, counting the whole number of persons in each State,’” the Office of Management and Budget’s statement added.

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(Photo by Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu via Getty Images)

But Republicans point out that non-citizens already can’t vote in federal elections and, therefore, should not be counted specifically for the allocation of House seats. Allowing non-citizens to affect the distribution of House seats and presidential electors, they argue, creates an imbalance in power between states, in which everyone’s vote is not equal. For example, Illinois and Pennsylvania both have 17 seats in the House and 19 presidential electors – but there are considerably more non-citizens in Illinois than in Pennsylvania, giving actual voters in Illinois a stronger voice in national politics.

Introducing the bill in the House, Rep. Chuck Edwards (R-NC) said, “Incentivizing illegal immigration and exploiting our democracy to skew the number of congressional seats or electoral votes for the presidency is immoral and a sure path to the downfall of our nation. Only American citizens can vote, and only American citizens should be counted when determining federal representation.”

However, with such strong Democrat opposition to the bill, it’s sure to die in the Senate. Barring that, Biden would almost certainly nix it, and it’s inconceivable that such a measure would gain enough votes to overturn the veto. Still, the bill raises an interesting question: If voting is a right of citizenship, why should non-citizens expect representation in Congress or the White House?

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