New York Loses a House Seat Over 89 Residents. The Blame Game Begins.

New York will lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives starting in 2022 after falling just 89 residents short in Census Bureau figures released Monday. The state feared it might lose two seats, but the smaller loss didn’t stop a flurry of finger pointing.

State party leaders, lawmakers and public-interest groups blamed it on everything from high taxes to poor leadership to delays in funding to count New York’s more than 20 million residents.

“New York City launched the largest-ever census campaign and broke response records,” said Bill Neidhart, spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “That effort could have been replicated across the state to prevent this loss. 89 people would have been counted if the state funding was released earlier.”

Had they been, the delegation would have remained at 27 seats; instead, New York joined California and other Democrat-led states that will lose a political edge to Texas and other Republican-led ones.

New York could appeal in court, but it would be difficult to win, said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, noting that Utah did so after the 2000 census but was unsuccessful. “It generally is viewed that whatever the census comes up with is pretty rock solid.”

The achingly small margin amounted to a census version of the 2000 presidential race in which Democratic nominee Al Gore lost to Republican George Bush in the crucial swing state of Florida by a few hundred votes.

“I don’t think there has ever been one this close before, certainly not in modern times,” Horner said. It’s the first time in eight decades that New York didn’t lose at least two seats. In the 1940s, the state’s delegation had 45 members.

Covid-19 certainly had some effect, Horner said. In March and April 2020, New York was the epicenter of the pandemic, with a peak of more than 10,000 positive cases a day. Both a high death count and the inability to hold community outreach events could have affected the count, he said. “We couldn’t go out into the field.”

Federal immigration policy under the Trump administration also may have played a role, particularly in New York City, which tends to be where immigrants arrive first, Horner said. “Historically New York State loses population, but it more than makes up for it with immigration. And when you reduce immigration, you’re reducing the population particularly in the city.”

While New York City had its local outreach funding out the door as the count began, the state didn’t release its funding until July -- after the count had started, Horner said.

A spokesman for Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state appropriated $30 million on census efforts and partnered with hundreds of community groups and local governments to make sure New Yorkers were counted.

“Thanks to those efforts, New York did better than the experts predicted and our population count went up,” said spokesman Peter Ajemian. “It’s unbelievable that some politicians are willing to forget how many obstacles the Trump administration put in place - during a pandemic no less - in order to score cheap political points.”

The census result could make a difference in Electoral College votes, which are set by congressional representation. It also may affect the state’s ability to get federal aid in the future because block grants are driven by census data.

Throughout the pandemic, conservatives have argued that high taxes in New York -- and the ability to work from home -- would lead to an exodus from the state. New York Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy echoed that assertion on Monday while placing blame on Cuomo.

The news “is a sad but unsurprising commentary on Andrew Cuomo’s failed leadership,” Langworthy said. “We have no future as a state when our federal representation continues to shrink, our jobs continue to be destroyed and our residents continue to flee to other states.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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