# Census

Possible Iowa Map

(This map sets up the Latham/Boswell race most people are expecting. It has larger population variance than this map but more compact districts. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

I drew this map upon release of the new Census data for Iowa.  I paid no attention to partisanship and tried to correlate each district with a geographical area of the state.  Starting with Des Moines, I drew a district around it, then drew a district for the southeast, northeast and western Iowa.  My goal was to have each district within 1,000 persons of the ideal district population.  Amazingly, my configuration worked out on my very first try (which means there’s probably many possible combinations to how the state can be drawn).  Nevertheless, I kind of like the map here because I think it does a good job in keeping the different regions of the state together (in that respect, I think it’s better than, for example, the 1990’s Iowa map which had one district run from Des Moines to  the western border).

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Iowa census numbers discussion thread

The U.S. Census Bureau released a ton of new Iowa demographic information yesterday.

Data for Iowa show that the five most populous incorporated places and their 2010 Census counts are Des Moines, 203,433; Cedar Rapids, 126,326; Davenport, 99,685; Sioux City, 82,684; and Waterloo, 68,406. Des Moines grew by 2.4 percent since the 2000 Census. Cedar Rapids grew by 4.6 percent, Davenport grew by 1.3 percent, Sioux City decreased by 2.7 percent and Waterloo decreased by 0.5 percent.

The largest county is Polk with a population of 430,640. Its population grew by 15.0 percent since 2000. The other counties in the top five include Linn, with a population of 211,226 (increase of 10.2 percent); Scott, 165,224 (increase of 4.1 percent); Black Hawk, 131,090 (increase of 2.4 percent); and Johnson, 130,882 (increase of 17.9 percent).

Click here to find the Iowa numbers and charts. I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to look through the data, but I’m posting a few starting points for discussion here.

Rick Smith’s piece on growth in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor is worth a read. I’m not surprised Linn County grew substantially during the decade, especially in the suburbs, but the population growth in Cedar Rapids itself is impressive. I didn’t expect to see that after the 2008 floods destroyed whole neighborhoods in the city.

After the jump I’ve posted official 2010 population numbers for all 99 Iowa counties, along with a map putting the counties in different population categories and a map grouping counties by population gain or loss (percentage). Ten Iowa counties have populations larger than 65,000 people. Another 14 counties have populations between 25,000 and 64,999; 29 counties have populations between 15,000 and 24,999; and 46 counties have populations between 4,029 (Adams) and 14,999. Dallas led the 33 Iowa counties that gained population between 2000 and 2010.

Although I wasn’t able to reproduce this chart showing the racial and ethnic breakdown of the Iowa population by Congressional district, I did include those numbers at the end of this post. I was surprised to see that even though Polk County has the largest Latino/Hispanic population in Iowa, there are more Latino/Hispanic residents in IA-05 than in IA-03, with IA-02 and IA-04 not far behind. Meanwhile, IA-01 has the smallest Latino/Hispanic population but the largest African-American population. The largest Asian population is in IA-03 with IA-02 not far behind. View the chart here or scroll down for more details.

Share any thoughts about the census data or details that caught your eye in this thread. For example, the Newton Independent posted 2000 and 2010 numbers for Jasper County and area cities.

UPDATE: The Des Moines Register has lots of census coverage here. Statewide, Iowa’s population grew by 4.1 percent from 2000 to 2010. The Latino population was up by 83.8 percent, the Asian population was up by 44.9 percent, and the African-American population was up by 44.1 percent.

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Christmas weekend open thread

Merry Christmas to those in the Bleeding Heartland community celebrating the holiday. Hope you have a joyful day with friends and family. To everyone else, I hope you enjoy some peaceful downtime this weekend. Yesterday our family finished a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle and went out sledding twice before enjoying Chinese food and a movie with a bunch of other Des Moines area Jews.

Today more sledding is on the agenda, and probably a new jigsaw puzzle. My boys received several new games for Chanukah, so we’ve been playing them a lot, especially “Sorry” and the Lego Harry Potter board game. For dinner, it will be my variation on my mother’s noodle kugel, which has become a sort of Christmas tradition for Mr. desmoinesdem. I’ve posted the recipe after the jump. It’s a lot less work than the traditional Christmas dinner Patric Juillet grew up with in Provence. Patric used to blog as Asinus Asinum Fricat. I am going to try some of his sweet potato recipes soon.

We received a card this week from a friend who usually bakes up a storm for Christmas. This year she got behind on her holiday baking, so instead of bringing over a package of goodies she made a donation in our name to Central Iowa Shelter and Services. That was a nice surprise. Food banks and shelters need cash donations now, and we don’t need any extra calories around our house. If you prefer to support charity working globally to reduce hunger, kestrel9000 suggests making a gift to Oxfam.

I didn’t notice too much “war on Christmas” silliness this year, but The Daily Show had a funny go at this American staple: “The holiday season wouldn’t feel the same without people going out of their way to be offended by nothing.” Locally, Gary Barrett tried to stir up some outrage over the demise of a “winter tree” at Ames High School. I felt my children’s public school did a good job of exposing the kids to different holiday traditions. Many children talked about their family’s rituals (religious or not) in class, and a display case had holiday decorations representing Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Devali.

The U.S. Census Bureau delivered Christmas cheer to some states this week, including our neighbor to the north, but as we all expected, Iowa will lose a Congressional district.

This is an open thread for anything on your mind this weekend.  

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Are Republicans plotting to politicize Iowa redistricting?

The Republican State Leadership Committee, a group focused on state legislative elections, hopes to win control of the Iowa House and Senate in order to “neutralize” Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting, according to a July 2010 strategy memo of the RSLC’s “REDMAP” program. The memo (pdf) sets a goal of creating “20-25 new Republican Congressional Districts through the redistricting process.” Iowa is among 12 states targeted in the REDMAP program, because our state will lose one of its five Congressional districts after the 2010 census.

The REDMAP Political Report says in a chart on page 6 that if Republicans win the Iowa House and Senate, the “Congressional impact” would be to “neutralize the redistricting process,” since Iowa’s legislature “can override” the state’s redistricting commission. In our state’s unique redistricting system, the Legislative Services Agency prepares a map using

only population data to propose districts that are as close to equal and as compact as possible.

They are banned from considering data such as voter registration or voter performance, and they don’t have access to the addresses of incumbent legislators and congressmen until after the map is prepared.

The legislature can accept or reject the proposed map, but cannot amend it. If the RSLC is suggesting that Democrats would tamper with redistricting unless Republicans win control of the state legislature, their fear-mongering is misguided. Speaking to Mike Glover of the Associated Press last month, Democratic House Speaker Pat Murphy and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal confirmed that they will not attempt to change the redistricting system.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley and House Minority Leader Kraig Paulsen also praised Iowa’s redistricting process in comments to Glover. But the RSLC memo leaves open the question of whether a Republican-controlled legislature would seek to override the commission. In 2001, the Republican-controlled Iowa legislature rejected the Legislative Services Agency’s first map but accepted the second. Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08 described the objections raised against the first 2001 redistricting proposal.

Since Iowa Republican leaders are eager to tamper with our state’s highly regarded judicial selection process, it wouldn’t be a stretch for them to mess around with our redistricting too.

The best way to prevent Republican interference with next year’s redistricting is to keep them in the Iowa House and Senate minority. I encourage Bleeding Heartland readers to volunteer for or donate to one or more Democratic candidates in statehouse districts. (It’s easy to contribute through ActBlue.) The following candidates in competitive races could especially use your help:

Democratic incumbents targeted by Republicans: McKinley Bailey (HD 9), John Beard (HD 16), Andrew Wenthe (HD 18), Doris Kelley (HD 20), Gene Ficken (HD 23), Donovan Olson (HD 48), Eric Palmer (HD 75), Nathan Reichert (HD 80), Phyllis Thede (HD 81), Larry Marek (HD 89), Curt Hanson (HD 90), Mike Reasoner (HD 95), Rich Olive (SD 5), Bill Heckroth (SD 9), Staci Appel (SD 37), Becky Schmitz (SD 45).

Democratic candidates defending open seats: David Dawson (HD 1), Chris Hall (HD 2), John Wittneben (HD 7), Susan Bangert (HD 8), Kurt Meyer (HD 14), Anesa Kajtazovic (HD 21), Mary Wolfe (HD 26), Dan Kelley (HD 41), Shari Carnahan (HD 84), Rick Mullin (SD 1), Tod Bowman (SD 13).

Democrats running for Republican-held seats: Selden Spencer (HD 10), Mark Seidl (HD 37), Dan Muhlbauer (HD 51), Andrew McDowell (HD 59), Scott Ourth (HD 74), Kurt Hubler (HD 99).

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Heads up on the next round of Iowa redistricting

Iowa’s “unique” redistricting process is about to begin, and Mike Glover provides an overview for the Associated Press.

That [non-partisan] Legislative Services Agency prepares a map of new congressional and legislative districts, and that initial map must be submitted to the Legislature by April 1. In preparing the map, staffers can use only population data to propose districts that are as close to equal and as compact as possible.

They are banned from considering data such as voter registration or voter performance, and they don’t have access to the addresses of incumbent legislators and congressmen until after the map is prepared. Once the map is drawn, they go back and figure out which lawmakers are in which district.

“Many things make the Iowa process unique, including the prohibition on the use of political data,” [Tim] Storey [of the National Conference of State Legislatures] said. […]

The Legislature can’t amend the first plan, only vote it up or down. If it’s voted down, staffers will prepare a second, also not subject to amendment. If that plan is rejected, staffers start again and prepare a third plan, which can be amended.

Bleeding Heartland will closely follow the upcoming redistricting. The new Congressional district lines will receive the most media attention, because Iowa is almost certain to lose one of its five Congressional districts. The new Iowa House and Senate district lines will alter the careers of many state legislators and could affect which party controls the upper and lower chambers after 2012.

Last year Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08 wrote a must-read piece on the 2001 redistricting process in Iowa. That post also looked at three of the many possible ways Iowa could be drawn into four Congressional districts. The redrawn third district, containing much of the Des Moines area, is likely to be a battleground seat in 2012.

UPDATE: I forgot to link to this guest post by possumtracker1991, who tried to figure out what Iowa’s four Congressional districts might look like if we had politicized redistricting. As ludicrous as that map is, it’s no sillier than some real maps used in states like Pennsylvania and Florida.  

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New statistics on Latino population growth in Iowa

William Petroski published a good article in yesterday’s Des Moines Register about Latino population growth in Iowa. I recommend clicking through to read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Iowa’s Latino population totaled 134,402 for the 12 months ending July 1, 2009. That was up 5 percent, or an increase of 6,488 people, compared to a year earlier.

Over the past two decades, Iowa’s Latino population has quadrupled. […]

Besides immigration from other countries and migration from other states, two key factors are driving growth: Most Latinos moving to Iowa are young people, and they have high fertility rates, said Sandra Burke, a demographer at Iowa State University’s Community Vitality Center. At least half or more of the growth of Iowa’s Latino population is from births, she said.

The median age of Iowa Latinos is 22.9 years, while the median age for all Iowans is 38, according to the State Data Center of Iowa. Meanwhile, the average family size for Iowa Latinos is 3.5, while the average family size among all Iowans is 2.9.

A wonderful place to raise a family

Many Latinos are joining family members already here, said Sandra Sanchez of Des Moines, chairwoman of the Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs.

“Iowa is really a wonderful place to raise a family,” often better than in large cities such as Los Angeles or Chicago, said Sanchez, who is also director of the Immigrant Voice Program of the American Friends Service Committee.

Latinos now make up about 4.5 percent of Iowa’s population. This map at the Des Moines Register’s site shows the raw population numbers and percentages for all 99 counties. Nearly a quarter of Iowa’s Latino population lives in Polk County, containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs.

In absolute numbers, the ten Iowa counties with the largest Latino populations are Polk, Woodbury, Scott, Muscatine, Marshall, Linn, Johnson, Buena Vista, Pottawatamie and Dallas.

The Iowa counties with the largest percentage of Latino residents are Crawford and Buena Vista (tied at 22 percent), Louisa (17 percent), Marshall (16 percent), Muscatine (15 percent), Franklin (14 percent), Woodbury (12 percent), Wright (10 percent), and Allamakee (9 percent). In addition, Latinos comprise at least 5 percent of the population in eleven other counties. See the Register’s map for county numbers from the latest census estimates.  

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Republicans still raising money with fake census forms

A month after the House and Senate unanimously approved a bill restricting direct-mail pieces designed to look like census documents, the Republican National Committee is at it again:

An RNC mailer obtained by TPMmuckraker bears the words “Census Document” and, in all caps, “DO NOT DESTROY/OFFICIAL DOCUMENT,” on the outside of the envelope. In smaller letters, it says: “This is not a U.S. government document.” The new law requires, among other things, that such mailers state the name and address of the sender on the outside of the envelope — something the RNC’s missive doesn’t appear to do. Inside, a letter from RNC chair Michael Steele, dated April 12, asks recipients to fill out a questionnaire about their political views, and solicits donations of as much as $500 or more. (See the mailer here.)

Last month, in response to virtually identical RNC mailers, members of both parties cried foul, raising the concern that the mailers could reduce the response rate for the actual Census — which was mailed to Americans last month — by confusing some voters. […] Congress quickly passed a law — the House vote was 416-0 — requiring that mailers marked “census” state the name and address of the sender on the outside of the envelope, and contain an unambiguous disclaimer making clear that the mailer is not affiliated with the government.

Based on a PDF image, the mailer obtained by TPMmuckraker does not appear to state the sender’s name and address on the outside. And the words “DO NOT DESTROY/OFFICIAL DOCUMENT” would appear to make the disclaimer that it’s not a government document less than unambiguous.

The RNC’s fundraising efforts have taken a hit this year, and Chairman Michael Steele is under pressure to turn things around, so I can’t say I’m surprised by this desperate act.

On a related note, census mail-back rates exceeded expectations this year, which will save the U.S. Census Bureau hundreds of millions of dollars. Iowa’s census participation rate is 77 percent so far, tied for third with Indiana and just behind Wisconsin and Minnesota. Many communities in Polk County have participation rates over 80 percent.  

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Take a few minutes to fill out your census form

April 1 is the U.S. Census Bureau’s target date for Americans to fill out and return their census forms. Every 1 percent increase in the census mail-back rate saves the U.S. Census Bureau about $85 million. After April 10, the bureau will start sending out census-takers to households that did not return their forms. President Barack Obama filled out his own family’s form and declared today “Census Day”:

The First Ladys mother lives with the family in the White House. Since the census asks for a count of everyone currently living in the household – not just immediate family – the President included his mother-in-law on his census form.

In these difficult economic times its common for extended family and friends to live with another family, yet many households mistakenly leave these individuals off their census forms.

Mr. desmoinesdem and I filled out our family’s form and mailed it back a couple of weeks ago. There are no “long forms” anymore; everyone gets the short survey with just 10 questions.

As of this morning, the national census participation rate was 52 percent; you can click on this interactive map to find participation rates in your area. Today Iowa ranked fifth among the states with a 60 percent participation rate. South Dakota and Wisconsin tied for first place with a 62 percent participation rate, and North Dakota and Nebraska tied for third with 61 percent. Within Iowa, a few towns had participation rates exceeding 80 percent. About 63 percent of households in my corner of the state, Windsor Heights, have returned their census forms so far.

Although some conservatives hyperventilate about the demographic questions on the census form, recording the race and ethnicity of U.S. residents helps the government “execute and monitor laws and programs that are targeted to specific groups.” Like conservative arguments about the legality of health insurance reform, objections to the census questions have no basis in constitutional law:

On numerous occasions, the courts have said the Constitution gives Congress the authority to collect statistics in the census. As early as 1870, the Supreme Court characterized as unquestionable the power of Congress to require both an enumeration and the collection of statistics in the census. The Legal Tender Cases, Tex.1870; 12 Wall., U.S., 457, 536, 20 L.Ed. 287. In 1901, a District Court said the Constitution’s census clause (Art. 1, Sec. 2, Clause 3) is not limited to a headcount of the population and “does not prohibit the gathering of other statistics, if ‘necessary and proper,’ for the intelligent exercise of other powers enumerated in the constitution, and in such case there could be no objection to acquiring this information through the same machinery by which the population is enumerated.” United States v. Moriarity, 106 F. 886, 891 (S.D.N.Y.1901).

The census does not violate the Fourth Amendment. Morales v. Daley, 116 F. Supp. 2d 801, 820 (S.D. Tex. 2000). In concluding that there was no basis for holding Census 2000 unconstitutional, the District Court in Morales ruled that the 2000 Census and the 2000 Census questions did not violate the Fourth Amendment or other constitutional provisions as alleged by plaintiffs. (The Morales court said responses to census questions are not a violation of a citizen’s right to privacy or speech.) […]

These decisions are consistent with the Supreme Court’s recent description of the census as the “linchpin of the federal statistical system … collecting data on the characteristics of individuals, households, and housing units throughout the country.” Dept. of Commerce v. U.S. House of Representatives, 525 U.S. 316, 341 (1999).

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

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GOP should return money raised from deceptive census mailings

Yesterday the House of Representatives unanimously approved HR 4261, the Prevent Deceptive Census Look-Alike Mailings Act. The short bill would ban fundraising letters like those the Republican National Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee sent last month, which gave the appearance of being official census documents. Those mailings were legal because they did not “use the full name of the U.S. Census Bureau or the seal of any government agency.” However, even Republicans have admitted that the tactic crosses a line, and no one in the House GOP caucus wanted to go on record opposing the bill yesterday.

On the other hand, it costs Congressional Republicans nothing to vote for this bill. Their committees are already cashing checks from this year’s deception, and the next census won’t roll around for ten years. If Republicans truly believe it’s wrong to raise money with a fake census letter, they should return all contributions from suckers they’ve duped this year.  

Latest Republican fundraising trick: fake census forms

The Republican National Committee had its “worst election-year cash flow this decade” in 2009. RNC Chairman Michael Steele started the year with about $22 million cash on hand and ended the year with less than $9 million in the bank. Fortunately for him, the GOP may make up the lost ground with an innovative scam fundraising tool: fake census forms.

The fundraising letter comes in the form of a “survey,” a frequently used device for partisan fundraising, but this one has a twist: Calling itself the “Congressional District Census,” the letter comes in an envelope starkly printed with the words, “DO NOT DESTROY OFFICIAL DOCUMENT” and describes itself, on the outside of the envelope, as a “census document.”

“Strengthening our party for the 2010 elections is going to take a massive grass-roots effort all across America,” Steele writes in a letter that blends official-sounding language, partisan calls to arms, and requests for between $25 and $500. “That is why I have authorized a census to be conducted for every congressional district in the country.”

Representative Dave Loebsack recently warned constituents in Iowa’s second district about the RNC’s appeal: “This fundraising letter even calls itself a ‘Census survey’ and asks people to pay for the cost of processing the census form.” Iowa Independent posted a link to a scanned version of the mailing in this piece by Lynda Waddington. She notes, “The mailing includes a ‘census tracking code’ as well as a deadline to respond.”

Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York introduced legislation this week to “prevent deceptive census lookalike mailings.” Earlier, she and Representative William Clay of Missouri wrote the U.S. Postmaster General, charging the RNC was breaking federal law by sending out an “attempt to mislead recipients.” Even if Maloney’s bill moved forward, it would come too late to stop this fundraising drive.

Apparently the RNC’s mailing is legal, according to the postal service, because “it doesn’t use the full name of the U.S. Census Bureau or the seal of any government agency.” But Ben Smith writes at Politico,

Even some who have been involved with the program, however, acknowledged that it walks the line.

“Of course, duping people is the point. … That’s one of the reasons why it works so well,” said one Republican operative familiar with the program, who said it’s among the RNC’s most lucrative fundraising initiatives. “They will likely mail millions this year [with] incredible targeting.”


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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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No Christmas present from Census Bureau to Iowa

On December 23 the U.S. Census Bureau released its last state population estimates before the 2010 census. Swing State Project highlighted this report by Election Data Services containing six different projections for how Congressional reapportionment will play out after the 2010 census is complete. DavidNYC posted charts showing expected gains and losses for various states in all six Election Data Services scenarios as well as in one projection by Polidata.

Sadly for Iowans, we stand to lose one Congressional district under all projections. So do our neighbors Minnesota and Illinois, although Minnesota is close to the edge and may hold on to all its seats depending on the real census numbers. Missouri, which was long expected to lose one of its districts, now appears be holding steady.

The projections reveal how hard the current recession has hit many sun belt states that boomed during the earlier part of this decade. California is no longer projected to gain any Congressional districts, for the first time since 1850, according to Charles Lemos, and the state might even end up losing a district. North Carolina won’t add a district, and Arizona and Florida will likely gain only one rather than two districts, as seemed probable a couple of years ago. Meanwhile, New York will lose only one district rather than two.

The final census numbers could hold a surprise or two, but Iowans will have to manage with only four representatives in the House. The redrawn third district is going to determine whether Iowa retains three House Democrats or has to settle for 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans. Like John Deeth, I worry about our chances running Leonard Boswell against Tom Latham if the new IA-03 includes Story County.

Bleeding Heartland user ragbrai08 wrote a great piece in March reviewing the work of the 2001 redistricting commission and analyzing three possible maps of Iowa carved into four districts.

Guest poster possumtracker1991 took us to an alternate reality in which Iowa has politicized redistricting here. It’s an absurdly gerrymandered map showing how four Democratic-leaning districts could be created in Iowa if we didn’t have a non-partisan commission leading the process.

Census worker's death ruled a suicide

Police have determined that the Kentucky census worker whose death became a national news story in September took his own life.

According to the Associated Press, a news release from Kentucky State Police says investigators believe [Bill] Sparkman acted alone in setting the scene. They also say he had recently taken out two life insurance policies.

Because of the way Sparkman’s body was found, I wrongly assumed he had been murdered. Apologies for jumping the gun on that one.

I stand by my view that conservatives should stop making paranoid allegations about the census and avoid the rhetoric of armed rebellion when talking about political opponents.

Approximately 1 million temporary workers will be hired next year to conduct the census. They will be trained to deal calmly with people who express hatred for the government.

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Conservatives must stop demonizing the census

The U.S. Constitution requires that the government conduct a census every ten years. Population counts determine federal funding for various programs, as well as the number of Congressional districts allocated to each state, so the public interest in conducting a thorough census is obvious.

The next census will take place in 2010, but some right-wing loudmouths and Republican politicians have unfortunately demonized the effort as an intrusive government plot. Over at Think Progress, Faiz Shakir recaps some of the paranoid chatter from Representative Michele Bachmann (MN-06) and Glenn Beck of Fox News. Shakir also cites radio host Neal Boortz, who told his listeners, “Most of the rest of the [Census] information is designed to help the government steal from you in order to pass off your property to the moochers. They’re looters.”

Not long ago I discussed my worries about the rhetoric of armed resistance coming from the political right, and I’ve been reflecting on this problem since I heard about census-taker Bill Sparkman’s murder. Sparkman was found naked and bound with “fed” written on his chest and his census ID taped to his neck. In rural Kentucky,

Sparkman’s gruesome death has ignited a debate over whether it was a byproduct of harsh anti-government rhetoric on talk shows, blogs and protests. Residents of impoverished Clay County say most people harbor no resentment for agents of the federal government, and they’re baffled by Sparkman’s apparent killing.

Sheriff Kevin Johnson, a native, said most residents feel a measure of gratitude to the federal government.

“We’ve been a poverty-stricken area pretty much all our lives,” he said. “The government’s taking care of 70 percent of people here, through Social Security, SSI, food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid.”

None of those programs could function without the demographic data the Census Bureau provides.

If conservative politicians and opinion leaders keep stoking fears about the government using census data to steal from or perhaps even round up law-abiding citizens, I am concerned that mentally unstable individuals will commit further acts of violence against census-takers next year. Republicans should condemn the hatemongers and make clear that the census is not only permitted, but required under the Constitution.

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What if Iowa had politicized redistricting?

(Thanks to the diarist for a fun trip to an alternative universe. For an outstanding overview of some realistic post-census Iowa maps, check out ragbrai08's post on redistricting. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Iowa is among the small number of states that use a bipartisan (or nonpartisan) commission to perform redistricting every 10 years. The resulting maps are often very competitive and fair when compared with those of many other states.

However, I started thinking anout what would happen if, hypothetically, the party in charge of the legislature controlled redistricting rather than the commission. What would such a map look like? How would the current incumbents be affected?

The map the I created was designed to help Democrats because currently the legislature is under Democratic control and the governor is a Democrat. In this hypothetical scenario, Republicans cannot block the plan through filibusters or avoiding a quorum. Since Iowa is set to lose one of its districts after the 2010 census, my plan uses four districts rather than the five that currently exist.

My main goals were to:

-Maintain Democratic advantages in eastern Iowa

-Protect Leonard Boswell

-Dismantle Tom Latham's district and force him to run against Steve King

(Note from desmoinesdem: current map and ridiculous-looking gerrymandered map are after the jump.)

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Open thread on Obama's 2010 budget and cabinet

President Barack Obama will present his first budget request to Congress today.

Early leaks indicate that he will propose some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans as well as some spending cuts to help pay for health care reform.

Ezra Klein, an excellent blogger on health care, is excited about what’s in the budget regarding health care reform. Although there is no detailed plan, Obama is submitting eight principles that should define health care reform efforts. Klein believes the principle of “universality” is likely to lead Congress to propose an individual mandate to hold health insurance.

I support mandated coverate only if there is a public plan that any American, regardless of age and income, can purchase as an alternative to private health insurance. The public plan would work like Medicare, in that individuals would be able to choose their own providers. Unfortunately, the Massachusetts model of mandatory private insurance without a meaningful public option has left a lot of problems unsolved.

It is not clear how much Obama will do to roll back George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. I am with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others who would prefer to start rolling back tax cuts for the top 1 percent immediately. Last month the president seemed to be leaning toward letting those tax cuts expire over the next two years rather than fighting to repeal them this year.

According to Bloomberg,

President Barack Obama’s first budget request would provide as much as $750 billion in new aid to the financial industry […]

No wonder Obama went out of his way to make the case for helping banks during his address to Congress on Tuesday night. I firmly oppose shelling out another $750 billion toward this end, especially since the bailout money we’ve already spent hasn’t accomplished the stated goals of the program.

According to AFP, today’s budget proposal will include a plan

to raise money through a mandatory cap on greenhouse emissions.

Obama’s budget director Peter Orszag earlier estimated that a cap-and-trade scheme could generate 112 billion dollars by 2012, and up to 300 billion dollars a year by 2020.

Cap-and-trade may be more politically palatable, but a carbon tax may be a better approach for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

In cabinet-related news, have calculated that expanding the food-stamp program

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wasn’t the top choice of environmentalists, but I was pleased to read this post:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar canceled oil shale development leases on Federal lands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and announced that the Interior Department would first study the water, power and land-use issues surrounding the development oil shale.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary wants to review US Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and told Congress that employers should be the focus of raids seeking to enforce immigration laws at workplaces. Obviously, swooping in and arresting a bunch of undocumented workers does nothing to address the root of the problem if employers are not forced to change their hiring practice.

Yesterday Obama named former Washington Governor Gary Locke as his latest choice to run the Commerce Department. Locke seems like a business-friendly Democrat, which is a big improvement over conservative Republican Judd Gregg, who thankfully withdrew his nomination for this post.

Republicans have been freaking out because of alleged plans by the Obama administration to “take control of the census.” Of course the GOP wants to continue the practices that have caused millions of white Americans to be double-counted in past censuses while millions more Americans in urban centers (largely non-whites) were not counted at all. Click here for more on the political battle over the census.

This thread is for any thoughts or comments about Obama’s cabinet or budget.

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Gregg out at Commerce--Whom should Obama appoint?

Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire withdrew his name from consideration for Commerce Secretary in Barack Obama’s cabinet today. Politico posted the statement from Gregg’s office. Excerpt:

I want to thank the President for nominating me to serve in his Cabinet as Secretary of Commerce. This was a great honor, and I had felt that I could bring some views and ideas that would assist him in governing during this difficult time. I especially admire his willingness to reach across the aisle.

However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.

Obviously the President requires a team that is fully supportive of all his initiatives. […]

As a further matter of clarification, nothing about the vetting process played any role in this decision. I will continue to represent the people of New Hampshire in the United States Senate.

One wonders why Gregg only noticed today that his views on economic stimulus and the census would impede his effectiveness as a cabinet member. (The U.S. Census Bureau is part of the Commerce Department.)

Despite the last paragraph of Gregg’s statement, you have to wonder whether something popped up in the vetting process here.

Whatever his reasons, I welcome the news and hope that the third time will be the charm for President Obama as he tries to fill this position.

This thread is for any comments or speculation about why Gregg dropped out and who should replace him at Commerce. I don’t want the job to go to another conservative or another Republican.

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An absurdly early look at the 2012 House races in Iowa (updated)

Thanks to the reader who suggested the correction and clarification I’ve added below.

The U.S. Census Bureau confirmed this week that Iowa will lose a Congressional district following the 2010 census unless we experience unprecedented (for Iowa) population growth in the next two years:

During the past eight years, Iowa has gained as many people – about 76,000 – as states like South Carolina and Virginia gained between 2007 and 2008 alone.

To retain the congressional seat, the state would have to gain nearly twice that number by 2010, according to projections by Election Data Services, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm that analyzes the impact of demographics on politics.

Don’t get your hopes up: we are going down to four Congressional districts. No one knows what the new map will look like, but it’s likely that the 2012 race in the new third district will determine whether Iowa Democrats (who now hold a 3-2 edge in U.S. House seats) gain a 3-1 advantage or have to settle for a 2-2 split.

Note: A non-partisan commission draws up the new Congressional map after each census in Iowa, so Democratic gerrymanders will not take place, even if Governor Chet Culver wins re-election in 2010 and Democrats hold their majorities in the state House and Senate. (Clarification: if the Democrats maintain control of the legislature, they have the option of rejecting the first and/or second map produced by the non-partisan commission. Republicans rejected the first map proposed after the last census.)

Most of what’s now the fifth district, represented by Republican incumbent Steve “10 Worst” King, is likely to become the new fourth district. It makes no difference whether the new counties added to IA-04 come from the current third or fourth districts–that is going to be a safe Republican seat.

Given the voting trends in eastern Iowa, I assume the new first and second Congressional districts will still be relatively safe for Democrats. (Remember, fewer than 10 Republicans in the whole country represent districts with any kind of Democratic partisan lean.) Either Bruce Braley or Dave Loebsack may need to move if the new map throws Waterloo (Black Hawk County) in the same district as Mount Vernon (Linn County), but that should not present much of a problem.

The big question mark is what happens to IA-03. Polk County will remain the largest county in the district, but it won’t be as dominant in the new district as it is now. Roughly 75 to 80 percent CORRECTION: A majority of the votes in the current third district come from the county containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs.

In which direction will IA-03 expand? If the counties added to it come mostly from the southwest, Republicans will have a better chance of winning the district. One reason Greg Ganske beat longtime incumbent Neal Smith in the 1994 landslide was that Smith’s fourth district had lost Story and Jasper counties, and gained a lot of southwestern Iowa counties, following the 1990 census.

If IA-03 includes more counties from the southeast, Democrats would be better positioned to hold the seat, although it’s worth remembering that Ottumwa resident Mariannette Miller-Meeks carried seven southern counties in her unsuccessful challenge to Loebsack in IA-02 this year.

Speaking at an Iowa Politics forum in Des Moines last month, Miller-Meeks said she was leaving her ophthalmology practice at the end of 2008. She strongly suggested that she will run for office again. Whether that means another bid for Congress or a run for the state legislature was unclear.

Miller-Meeks has little chance of winning a district as strongly Democratic as IA-02, but I could easily see her taking on Leonard Boswell if Wapello County ends up in IA-03 after the next census. The Des Moines Register has endorsed Boswell’s challengers before and would back any credible Republican opponent against him.

The Republicans’ best chance in a third district stretching to the south, though, would be to run someone with strong Polk County connections to keep down the Democratic margins there. I don’t have any idea which Republicans have their eye on this race.

If IA-03 expands to the north, it’s good news and bad news for Democrats. Story County and Marshall County are reasonably strong territory for the party. On the down side, current fourth district incumbent Tom Latham lives in Story County. Latham is a mediocre Republican back-bencher; what else can you say about a seven-term incumbent whose big achievement on health care, according to his own campaign, was co-sponsoring a bill that never made it out of committee?

However, Latham has obviously used his position on the Appropriations Committee to build up a lot of goodwill in the district. He just won re-election by 21 points in a district Barack Obama carried by 8 percent, and he even carried Story County.

I don’t care to run Boswell or a non-incumbent Democrat (in the event of Boswell’s retirement) against Latham in a redrawn IA-03. I’m not saying Democrats couldn’t hold the seat in those circumstances, but I feel it would be a tough hold.

We would be better off electing a new, ambitious Democrat to Iowa’s third district in 2010, so we can run a rising star in the majority party against Latham, if it comes to that. Actually, we’d have been better off if Boswell had retired in 2008, allowing someone new to compete for this seat as a two-term Democratic incumbent in 2012. But what’s done is done.

Anyone think there’s a chance Boswell will reconsider his promise to run for re-election in 2010?

If Democrats still control the state legislature after 2010, should they reject the first new Congressional map suggested by the non-partisan commission if that map puts Story County in IA-03?

What kind of map would give Democrats the best chance of holding the third district?

I look forward to reading your absurdly early speculation about the 2012 races in the comments.

For those who are interested in the national implications of the post-census reapportionment, DavidNYC created a chart showing which states are likely to gain or lose Congressional districts.

Chris Bowers has already created a 2012 electoral college map, and even with one fewer electoral vote, Iowa will remain important to Obama’s re-election chances. You should click over and read the whole post yourself, but the good news is that Obama has a clear path to 270 electoral votes in 2012 even if he loses Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina.

UPDATE: John Deeth looked ahead to the 2012 Iowa races in this post last week. He concluded that in order to win three out of the four Congressional districts, Iowa Democrats will need to 1) beat Latham in 2010, and 2) get Boswell to retire in 2012. Click over to read how he reached that conclusion.  

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