Lansing — Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is right to call for a U.S. Census recount in Detroit, but the results would come too late to make a difference in how Michigan's political districts are drawn, according to the state's demographer.
Speaking to lawmakers charged with redrawing political maps based on 2010 census data, Ken Darga said the U.S. Census Bureau missed thousands of homes when it counted Detroit's population in 2000.
Results of a recount would come too late to affect new borders that must be drawn for Michigan's Congressional and state legislative districts, he added. The federal government would have until the end of 2013 to deliver the recount numbers. But the Michigan Legislature is required to have the maps approved and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder by Nov. 1.
"It's going to be certainly worthwhile to look closely at the data for Detroit to see if there are housing units that should have been in the census," Darga told members of the House Redistricting and Elections Committee. "The errors we are talking about here are perhaps thousands of housing units, but not hundreds of thousands of housing units.
"It's going to be worth doing to improve funding for the city of Detroit and for other communities where errors occurred. I would be very surprised if it brings the city of Detroit past the benchmarks for the population threshold they want to have. But each person added to the Census brings roughly a thousand dollars per year of federal funding to a community."
The 2010 Census showed Detroit's population declined by 25 percent in the past decade, plummeting to 713,777 people. Bing hopes to establish that Detroit has at least 750,000 people, the threshold to qualify for some kinds of federal and state funding.
Michigan also has 25 state laws that give special treatment to cities of at least 750,000. The laws were written to exclude all cities but Detroit at a time when Detroit was home to millions. The city stands to lose $174 million in state and federal money based on falling below the benchmark.
Michigan was the only state in the nation to lose population over the past decade, Darga said. He said the loss is due not so much to the flight of Michigan residents, as to Michigan's inability to attract new residents from out-of-state.
"Going back a decade or so, Michigan actually had the best rate of population retention," Darga said. "It's not that people are leaving so fast, it's that the people who are leaving are not being replaced by people who are coming in from elsewhere."