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New York could sue to prevent loss of congressional seat, Cuomo says

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Jonathan Weiss

New York could take legal action against the federal government to prevent the state from losing a seat in Congress after last year’s census count, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

Cuomo said the margin by which New York is expected to lose that seat — 89 residents — is too slim, and could be the result of a mistake by the federal government.

“It’s obviously not desirable, and the last thing we want to do is lose representation in Washington,” Cuomo said. “So, it’s not good news for the state.”

“And we’re looking at legal options because when you’re talking about 89 [people], I mean, that could be a minor mistake.”

Cuomo, later Tuesday, formally asked the New York Attorney General's Office to explore legal options related to the apportionment.

The U.S. Census Bureau said on Monday that if just 89 more people had been counted in New York as part of the federal census last year, the state wouldn’t be losing a seat in Congress. More than 20 million people live in New York, according to the agency.

Instead, the last remaining seat during the apportionment process went to Minnesota, census officials said.

That’s not because New York’s population went down over the last decade. The state has actually gained about 800,000 residents during that time, an increase of about 4%, according to the Census Bureau.

But the population of other states in the country grew at a faster rate, outpacing New York. That meant that, proportionately, New York had to give up a seat in Congress to another state.

Cuomo didn’t blame the state’s loss in representation on lackluster population growth, instead targeting former President Donald Trump. Certain populations, Cuomo said, may have been less likely to participate in the census under the previous administration.

“You had people who were nervous to come forward. You had undocumented people who were nervous to come forward,” Cuomo said. “I do believe the federal government had a chilling effect.”

New York was one of a handful of plaintiffs that sued the Trump administration in recent years to prevent a question about a respondent’s citizenship from being added to the census.

The lawsuit eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the Trump administration hadn’t taken the proper steps to add the question to the census. The census then moved forward without the question.

But opponents of the question had feared that undocumented immigrants would still be hesitant to participate in the census because of the Trump administration’s position. Some have suggested those fears were realized.

If New York doesn’t succeed in court, the state will lose a seat in Congress for at least the next decade, knocking it down to 26 members in the House.

Dan Clark is the host and producer of New York NOW, a weekly television show focusing on state government produced by WMHT in Albany. Clark has been reporting on New York state government and politics for the last six years, during which time he's worked out of the state Capitol in Albany. Clark reported for the national political fact-checking publication PolitiFact, the Buffalo News, the statewide political television show Capital Tonight, and most recently the New York Law Journal. At the New York Law Journal, Clark has focused on state legal challenges to President Donald Trump, as well as litigation concerning laws enacted by the New York State Legislature. Clark covered the Legislature in each role he's held and is a familiar face to state lawmakers and staff. Clark is a native of Afton, NY in Chenango County. He's lived in Albany with his husband since 2011.