Population

By Everton Bailey Jr.

5:00 AM on Oct 21, 2021 CDT

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Several Dallas council members on Wednesday said they’re concerned that despite the 2020 census results showing the city’s population increasing, there could be many who weren’t counted at all.

The city doesn’t have an estimate of how many people weren’t included in the latest tally.

Dallas is in the beginning stages of its redistricting process, which uses the census numbers to redraw the city’s 14 council districts to allow equal voter representation through evenly populated areas.

Dallas’ population grew by 106,563 residents in the last decade to 1.3 million in 2020, census numbers show. With the population increase, boundaries are likely to shift and some residents could find themselves in different council districts.

But the rate of Dallas residents who responded to the 2020 census survey online, by phone or mail was 60% — 2% lower than in 2010 when the population was nearly 1.2 million. Response rates in 2020 were also lower at the county, state and national levels. The count itself faced challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and a proposal from the Trump administration to include a citizenship question that likely deterred some undocumented immigrants from taking part.

The issues have fueled concerns of population undercounts around the country.

Mayor Eric Johnson noted a recent >Washington Post article citing two new analyses that suggest 2 million Black residents nationwide, particularly children, may not be represented in the latest decennial survey.

“We know that if they’re not counted, we lose dollars and we can’t provide services,” said council member Carolyn King Arnold, referring to how federal and state aid is often based on population size.

Council members asked city staff for an analysis to figure out how many were not potentially counted. But those numbers won’t be reflected in the redistricting process, said Priti Mathur of ARCBridge Consulting, a firm hired by the city to analyze the census numbers and help redraw the districts.

She said population numbers include other factors, such as in-person head counts. She acknowledged that undercounts are possible.

“These are the numbers that we have and that is what we’re supposed to use,” Mathur said. “The [U.S.] Census Bureau does the best that it can, but this is the process.”

Next steps

The next step in the redistricting process will take place next Thursday, when the city’s redistricting commission meets. The 15-member advisory board is appointed by the mayor and 14 council members to develop a proposed plan.

Jesse Oliver, a former Texas legislator and state district judge who was appointed by Johnson as the commission’s chair, said Wednesday that the group plans to finalize its timeline to accept public input and eventually recommend a new map for the city.

Oliver said the commission is tentatively planning to hold town hall meetings to get public feedback in November, develop and present proposed maps between December and March, and approve a final plan and recommend it to the mayor by May.

The plan will then be submitted to the City Council, which would have 45 days to approve it. They can suggest changes to the map before then. Dallas’ new map has to be approved at least 90 days before the next City Council election on May 6, 2023, according to the charter.

Oliver said a website going live next month will allow people to redraw district boundaries and submit them to the redistricting committee.

City grows

Dallas’ population in the 2010 census meant the lines had to be redrawn so each district could include nearly 85,558 residents. The city’s population increase in the 2020 census means each district should include around 93,170 residents. Mathur said the law allows a variation of up to 10% between the city’s most and least populated districts.

District 14, which covers Uptown, Old East Dallas and parts of downtown, was the only area with a population over 10% of the ideal mark (106,927).

Dallas County last year selected advertising firm Alpha Business Images to increase 2020 census outreach and awareness throughout the county. Dallas contributed $1 million to the effort.

The group reported canvassing almost 24,000 households, making more than 432,000 phone calls, sending 237,000 mailers to families and contacting 200 churches about the census.

The group noted that Dallas had the highest rates of residents who would be hardest to count compared with Fort Worth, Houston and the state. This includes a higher rate of households without broadband internet (27%) and residents living in poverty (about 21%).

All 14 city districts saw decreases in self-reported census response rates in 2020, but Alpha Business Images noted that areas of higher poverty and lower internet coverage had the lowest responses.

Source : https://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2021/10/21/dallas-officials-are-worried-new-census-population-numbers-are-incomplete/

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