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Census forms start arriving next week

Fill out those forms and send them back, because redistricting and all that it entails will follow close behind.

Experts’ early looks at Census estimates point to a potential new congressional district in northwest Harris County. That could be alluring to state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who represents the area in the Legislature.

A new Hispanic-majority congressional district is likely to find a home along Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin.

Another Hispanic-majority district probably will land in Dallas County. But because of population shifts to the suburbs, Dallas likely will lose a seat in the Texas House of Representatives.

The location of a fourth congressional district for Texas will be the subject of political debate a year from now.

I had always been under the impression that the fourth seat would be down along the Rio Grande. If you take a look at Steve Murdock’s map of where the population growth has been in Texas, it’s pretty obvious, as the four locations correspond to the three places mentioned in the Chron story, plus the southernmost border counties. That would very likely be a Democratic seat, which won’t go over too well with the Republicans, who will as the story notes try to make up for it by taking aim once again at Rep. Chet Edwards. Obviously, there are far too many factors involved here to give any kind of accurate projection of what will happen, but some things you can see coming from miles away.

Of course, for South Texas to have any hope of getting a new Congressional seat, there has to be a thorough count. The State of Texas hasn’t exactly been out in front of the issue.

With Census Day just a few weeks away, Texas finally has a point person to coordinate the state’s push for complete participation by its residents in the project.

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry named Secretary of State Hope Andrade the Texas Census Ambassador.

[…]

For months, Hispanic civil rights groups, border city and county officials and state legislators have been urging Perry to get involved in Census 2010 by forming a statewide Complete Census Count Committee. Groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have argued that Perry could have been better utilizing the enormous resources state agencies have to promote full participation in the Census. Up until now Perry has resisted such calls.

MALDEF staff attorney Luis Figueroa pointed out that more than 35 states have so far set up Complete Census Count Committees. “Obviously, with all the obstacles that we have, such as the hard to count communities and the colonias, Texas is really a state that needs to be proactive with the census,” Figueroa said.

State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, was the first elected official in Texas to call on Perry to set up a statewide Complete Census Count Committee.

“The stakes are high,” Villarreal said, in a letter to Perry last October. “Promoting participation in the census will improve our state’s chances of attaining the federal funding and political representation that our growing population deserves. If we succeed, we will receive more of our own tax dollars back from the federal government, easing our ability to meet our needs in transportation, education, health and human services and other ideas.”

Villarreal’s letter prompted calls in the Guardian in November for Perry to set up a statewide Complete Count Committee. The calls came from Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia, McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and McAllen Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Keith Patridge.

Here’s a copy of the letter Villarreal sent to Perry back in October, and here’s a story from February in which Villarreal called on Perry again to take this step. I know Perry’s been busy lately fighting off the depredations of the federal government single-handedly, but if he had the time to do this now, he had the time to do it six months ago. It just wasn’t a priority for him. A release from Villarreal about Perry’s appointment of Andrade is beneath the fold, and Texas Politics has more.

Villarreal Gives Lukewarm Praise for Governor’s Appointment of State Census Ambassador

Warns that Late Start Puts Funding for Schools and Other Services at Risk

San Antonio – Today State Representative Mike Villarreal offered his lukewarm praise to Governor Rick Perry for appointing Secretary of State Hope Andrade as the state’s census ambassador.

“I trust that Hope Andrade will make the most out of the limited time she has to do her job,” said Villarreal, who was the first elected official to publicly urge the Governor to take action on the census.

In the coming days, the U.S. Census Bureau will mail census forms to households throughout Texas. Between April and July, census workers will visit households that do not mail back their questionnaires.

In October 2009, Rep. Villarreal wrote to Governor Perry urging him to establish a statewide Complete Count Committee and direct state agencies to support census participation. He has not received a response.

A study commissioned by the U.S. Census Monitoring Board found that approximately 373,000 Texans were not counted in 2000, costing Texas over $1 billion in federal support for education, transportation, health care and other services over the course of the decade.

“Texas can bring home a billion dollars more from the federal government if everyone is counted. The Governor’s delay hurts our chances. Once again showing one’s ability to campaign has nothing to do with one’s ability to govern,” noted Villarreal.

Rep. Villarreal urged all Texans to participate in the census. He emphasized that it is safe, especially if families keep a few things in mind. All census workers carry official government badges marked with just their name. Residents may ask them for another picture ID to confirm their identity. Private information they collect is never published or even shared with other government agencies. They will never ask to enter a respondent’s home, request a Social Security number, or inquire about legal status.

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