New Mexico lawmakers hoping to tackle a major state redistricting plan in a September special session got some surprising news Monday.
They may have to wait until November or December, due to census data delays. Albuquerque pollster Brian Sanderoff, whose company Research & Polling Inc. plans to help compile data for the redistricting effort, told members of the Legislative Council the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the 2020 U.S. census, which will hinder New Mexico’s process of drawing new voting district boundaries based on population changes. “We can’t do our work until we get that data,” Sanderoff said. Voting districts in New Mexico were last drawn in 2012 by a state District Court after then Republican Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a redistricting plan drafted by a Legislature with a majority of Democrats following the 2010 census. New Mexico has more time than some other states to meet a requirement for redistricting based on updated census data.
With three weeks to go before the US Census is scheduled to end, 19 percent of Navajo people have responded to the U.S. Census, a much lower rate than for New Mexico and the U.S. overall, and lags behind all other tribes located within the state other than Jicarilla Apache.The once-a-decade head count of the U.S. population helps determine federal funding for healthcare, housing, roads, and a range of other important services and robust responses by tribal members ensure that their communities receive an equitable share of federal resources.
This story was first published by New Mexico In Depth and is republished here with permission. But the census deadline looms ominously following the Trump administration’s decision in early August to abruptly move it from the end of October to September 30. Earlier this month the Navajo Nation and the Gila River Indian Community joined a lawsuit filed last month by several nonprofits, including the National Urban League and the League of Women Voters, as well as cities and counties in a number of states, to keep the census deadline at the end of October.
There is no guarantee the court fight will end in an extended deadline, however. Over the past month, the Navajo Nation, which is one of the largest tribes in the U.S. and dwarfs other tribes in New Mexico by size, has nudged upward the number of people who have responded to the census, with responses rising from 10 percent in late July to 19 percent this week. But that’s significantly lower than its 53.6 percent goal, presented on the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department website.
The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the progress the state started to make towards ending its long-time position as 50th in the nation for child well being, according to child advocacy organization New Mexico Voices for Children. Emily Wildau, research and policy analyst for New Mexico Voices for Children’s annual Kids Count data book, said the U.S. census polled Americans using both text and computers from the end of April to the end of July to generate early data on how the nation was faring under the pandemic. Some of that data was available at the state level, she said. New Mexico ranked as the lowest in the nation for child well-being in 2020, according to the Kids Count data book, and has done so for years. Recent policy changes and the increased revenue from the oil boom in the Permian Basin last year brought hope for many child advocates of an improved future, especially for children of color and low-income children in New Mexico.
But according to New Mexico Voices for Children, 51 percent of adults in households with children in New Mexico have lost employment since March.
With only a little more than a month left to fill out the 2020 U.S. census, some groups that have been historically forgotten could go under counted again. Adrien Lawyer, co-founder of Albuquerque-based Transgender Resource Center, told NM Political Report said that even the best available data on the transgender communities across the country are largely undercounting the communities. The U.S. census doesn’t ask questions about gender orientation or identity. Lawyer said the transgender community is again in danger of being undercounted with this census as it has been in previous census data gatherings. The best available data on the size of the community in either the U.S. or New Mexico comes from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law Williams Institute, which is a research center on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.
If you’ve ever done much research on your family history, you’ve likely run across old census records. These yellowed documents—many hand-written with quill and ink by enumerators who went door-to-door to gather the information—were used to determine how many representatives each state had in Congress. Today’s Census is still incredibly important, but now it is much more high-tech. It involves cutting-edge technology, years of planning, extensive research, and thousands of Census workers across the country. Far from being a thing of the past, the decennial Census count that takes place every ten years determines crucial day-to-day realities for all residents in the U.S. It determines voting and school districts, political representation, and how billions in federal dollars are spent across the country—including $6.2 billion every year in New Mexico alone.
Amid fears that a lack of money will prevent an accurate count, states are gearing up to identify the people the 2020 U.S. Census is most likely to miss, from trailer-park residents in New York to people living in shantytowns in New Mexico. Residents of isolated rural areas, immigrants, and people who just don’t trust the government are among those who tend to be undercounted in the decennial census. The apportionment of U.S. House seats and nearly $590 billion in annual federal funding depend on the count, so state and local officials have a keen interest in making sure their residents don’t fall through the cracks. This story originally appeared at Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts. The current task for state and local officials is to verify the Census Bureau’s residential address list: Starting in February, the bureau will turn over address lists to states and local governments for double-checking that must be finished within 120 days.
ROSWELL — Count Saul and Claudia Rubalcaba among a growing demographic that’s changing Southeastern New Mexico. Both came to the state 15 years ago from a town just outside of Chihuahua City, Mexico. As they settled into a new city, Claudia started working at a restaurant called Taqueria Jalisco while Saul worked as a plumber fixing sprinklers. Last year, the married couple got an offer from Taqueria Jalisco’s owners—move to Roswell and manage a new franchise on the south side of the city. “In the beginning we said no,” Saul explained in an interview on a recent weekday sitting with Claudia in a booth in their restaurant.
ROSWELL – In a packed gymnasium, Vanessa Tarango canvasses a crowd gathered to take advantage of public hours being held today by Consulate General of Mexico in El Paso. Tarango is a member of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, a statewide immigrant rights advocacy group that’s here to recruit new members. She and half a dozen other canvassers are scattered throughout St. Peter’s Parish gym in downtown Roswell. Here, flocks of people are waiting in line for help with their immigration documents, which include green cards and consular identification cards.