Source: Miami Herald

 

Pay attention, South Floridians. It’s very likely that the Republican Legislature, with the tacit of approval of Gov. Ron DeSantis, is working on the biggest, baddest voter suppression effort of modern times.

Or else, they’re just clueless.

While civic organizations across the state are putting money behind “be sure to be counted” initiatives in advance of the high-stakes 2020 Censusthe DeSantis administration is twiddling its thumbs, perhaps willfully.

The state has not yet allocated funds or infrastructure to assure that Florida comes as close to an accurate Census count as possible in 2020.

Ultimately, that could be great for state’s Republican Party. And come at a cost to the rest of us.

The results of the once-every-10-years count of how many people live in the country will have a long-lasting impact on Floridians’ quality of life, for good or for ill. So many government decisions at the local, state and federal levels depend on how the numbers add up.

An accurate count in Florida will guarantee that the state gets ample funding, out of $675 billion, for federal programs and other needs. State and local governments rely on Census data to set policies and, for instance, determine how to allocate police and fire services and where to locate new schools and medical facilities.

But an undercount will come at a high price. That’s what happened to Florida after the 2010 Census. The state lost an estimated $20 billion in federal funding between 2010 and 2020 because of Floridians, especially hard-to-count populations, who were not included or, rather, who did not include themselves. In fact, Florida had the third largest undercount in the nation, with an estimated 1.4 million omitted.

In Miami-Dade County, 6.6 percent of the population was left out of the 2010 count, leaving almost $2.5 billion on the table, according to the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy. Broward County’s undercount of 8.5 percent of its population cost it $2.13 billion.

Yet leaders in Florida, unlike those in most other states, have yet to lift a finger or allocate funding for education and awareness programs to ensure that as many residents as possible are counted. The only statewide effort so far is Florida Counts: Census 2020, a coalition of seven philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. Its goal is to raise a $2 million fund out of which it will make grants to community-based organizations for outreach and education campaigns.

While Floridians should commend and support this responsible and civic-minded initiative, they should condemn the irresponsible inaction of their elected officials. Why would lawmakers want to cheat their own state, their own constituents, out of so much money?

Could it be because it’s all about political power? The Census results also will determine how many new congressional seats Florida will reap through 2030. The same people that the Republican-majority Legislature has for years tried to keep from voting — African Americans, some Hispanics, young adults — stand a good chance of being undercounted again. The true population numbers will be skewed, very likely in Republicans’ favor.

Florida’s population has surged in the years since the last Census. Yet the state is at risk of another huge and costly undercount.

Its so-called leaders need to be called to account and tell us why that’s OK with them.