The congressional district that includes the Greater Olean area has had a poor census response rate in 2020, and that could damage the area fiscally and politically, Tracy Mitrano said during a media call Thursday.
Mitrano, the Democratic challenger for the 23rd congressional district, said the response rate is important because census figures are considered in determining the number of congressional districts each state has, as well as how much federal funding each state receives.
“New York has been losing districts within the last 10, 20 years,” Mitrano said. “It is probably poised to lose at least one, if not two, more as a result of the census. Believe me, with these poor results, there’s no question that we are underrepresented, undercounting, and it’s going to mean we will probably lose congressional seats as a result.”
According to Mitrano, the 23rd district has a census completion rate of 58.5 percent this year, putting the district in 20th place in response rates among New York’s 27 districts.
Mitrano said she received the information she cited from the office of New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Two weeks ago, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties had completion rates of 52% and 49%, respectively.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau website, New York’s overall census self-response rate in 2020 is 62.9 percent. The bureau’s website shows the national census completion rate was 74 percent in 2010. As of July 14, the national 2020 completion rate was 62.1%.
A decrease in federal funding will impact food stamps, education, Medicare, housing and infrastructure. Mitrano added that the decrease in local businesses brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic will hurt local governments and force a rise in taxes.
“The census has been a central part of the identity of the United States,” Mitrano said. “It began in 1790, and through civil wars and everything else, every 10 years we have done this. But the response rate historically this time is very low.”
Mitrano said that Tom Reed, the Republican incumbent for the 23rd district, has only mentioned the census once on his social media sites.
Other topics Mitrano spoke about during the media call were insufficient broadband access, voter fraud, political debate and the Problem Solvers Caucus.
Mitrano called for more broadband in the district, saying that roughly 30% of its residents do not have access to the internet and suggested the lack of broadband may be causing the low number of census completions in the district.
She added that the need for broadband and the decrease in census completions points to larger issues such as political distrust and the fear of mail-in voter fraud, correlating the issues to President Donald Trump’s administration.
“Anything that doesn’t seem to favor, in the moment, what Donald Trump thinks is defined as a hoax, and it is causing people to so distrust any government process that they’re hiding from a process that could help them the most,” Mitrano said.
Mail-in voting, Mitrano said, has one of the lowest rates of fraud throughout American history.
“Our president, our congressmen, are not doing the fundamental job of helping people understand that government is for the people, of the people and by the people, and should, therefore, be in service of the people,” she said.
Concluding the call, Mitrano discussed the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan congressional group that Reed co-chairs.
According to its website, the caucus is a group of congressional members who aim to solve challenges obstructed by partisanship.
Mitrano argued that the caucus has a different purpose.
“The actual operation of the Problem Solvers Caucus is public relations,” Mitrano said. “It’s political theater at both its best and its worst because it sounds good to ring the bipartisan bell. But when all you really do is put out press statements and talk about how bipartisan one is and nothing comes as a result, it further confuses people about what is really going on.”
Mitrano said she wants to bring more energy to Congress and get results, in order to fix, instead of discuss, problems.
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