Cuomo: state should use all ‘legal options’ to challenge census, loss of seat in congress

Updated: Apr. 27, 2021 at 3:30 PM EDT
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ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - Governor Cuomo said Tuesday the state should fight to hold onto a seat in congress.

U.S. Census figures released Monday showed the state losing one seat in congress, going from 27 to 26 seats in the House of Representatives.

In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, Cuomo called on Attorney General Letitia James to “review all legal options available to ensure the voice of every New Yorker is fairly and wholly represented in the halls of Congress.”

The governor blamed the administration of former president Donald Trump for the state’s loss.

“Census takers in New York faced unprecedented challenges last year in their efforts to get New Yorkers counted - from the pandemic’s effect on the mail system to the Trump Administration’s xenophobic, flagrant, and illegal efforts to hurt blue states by discouraging non-citizens and people of color from being counted,” Cuomo said.

“We won’t allow Trump and his cronies to use one of our greatest attributes - our diversity - as an impediment.”

New York’s population grew in the new census, but not as much as states in the south and west. New York was one of several states to lose a seat in congress.

The loss was particularly hard to swallow because out of the millions of people in the state, New York fell just 89 people short of having enough people complete the census to hold onto all 27 seats.

“There’s probably 89 people in Lewis County who didn’t fill out the census,” said Lewis County manager Ryan Piche Tuesday.

“That’s why we pushed this summer and into the fall locally to try to get people to sign up.”

All three north country counties mounted significant efforts to get people to fill out census forms.

“It says something about personal responsibility. Sometimes these things do matter. It’s a lot like voting in an election that winds up being close. In this case, there are consequences,” said Alexander Cohen, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Clarkson University.

Losing ground in the once every 10 years census is important in two ways: it reduces the size of the state’s congressional delegation and thus reduces the clout that delegation has to get things from the federal government.

And it can directly reduce the funding which goes to a wide variety of things like aid to schools, and money for public health programs.

Piche expects that when the north country-specific census numbers are released later this summer, we’ll see more of a “two, three decade long trend of population loss.”

“And I suspect that will continue.”

As for whose seat in congress will be cut - assuming the census numbers stand - one early candidate is the seat now held by Republican Tom Reed, who is not running again amid a sexual harassment scandal. Reed’s district extends through New York’s Southern Tier to the western part of the state.

Another candidate for cutting: Claudia Tenney, the Republican who narrowly beat her Democratic opponent last November.

What does not appear likely is that north country congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s seat is in any danger.

“Someone’s gonna be a loser in all this, but I can’t imagine it will be Stefanik,” said Cohen.

“To try to redistrict her out would be impossible on any grounds, it would be too politicized,” he said.

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