Sam Burnham, Curator
You've probably heard that the 2020 US Census is planned to include an old question on it. The census form will ask people living in the US if they are citizens. The question was asked on the form until 1950 when it was removed. The Justice Department is claiming that the information is needed to ensure the proper enforcement of certain portions of the Voting Rights Act.
Some states, including California and Massachusetts are trying to block the question from the forms. They are claiming that the question is unconstitutional, although the move would simply shift
the question used on the annual forms of the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The ACS is a continuing survey that gathers census information and provides data to assist the bureau in producing an accurate census every 10 years.
States squabbling and arguing over the counting of groups by the census are not new. They predate the cesus itself. So let's take a look at history to see what is happening.
When the Average of 1 & 0 Equaled 3/5
Much of what happens in politics today passes muster because we misunderstand history and wind up getting fool by the same arguments, simply readjusted for a modern agenda. There is a lot of talk about how slaves were once counted as 3/5 of a person. I even saw a comment on Twitter the other evening that "The Second Amendment was written by a slaveholder who thought a black man was only 3/5 human." There is way too much ignorance in that one statement to really get into it today and I want to stay on topic. So let's stick to the 3/5 part.
In crafting the Constitution, the Founders created the House of Representatives. Each state in the new nation would send a delegation to Congress with the number of representatives being determined by the state's population. The more people in a state, the more representatives they would send. The census would give the government the population data needed to properly apportion representation.
Then came the question of slavery. Slaves would not be permitted to vote, were not citizens, and did not live in the North at all. They also contributed to the economy, used roads, bridges, etc, and made up a sizable percentage of the Southern population - in many areas outnumbering whites. The Norther representation would be higher if slaves were not counted and they lobbied to have each slave counted in the census as 0. The South, knowing that their representation was going to be greatly increased by the large slave population, lobbied that, unlike every other area in life, each slave should count the same as a free white man, they should count as 1.
Simple as this sounds to modern ears, this almost brought down the Republic before it was even born. This was a no deal situation. Both sides were willing to walk away. So a compromise was struck. The North did not get the 0 they wanted and the South did not get their 1. The founders added 1 and 0 then averaged the two and determined that certain people would count in the census as 3/5 of a person.
Next Verse, Same as the First
Enter California and their heavy non-citizen population. Numbers I heard on NPR's 1A yesterday indicate that California has a non-citizen population of around 13%. If their fear is correct and non-citizens refuse to respond to the census because they fear the government is using the data to track down illegals, this census could result in a 13% drop (or higher) in California's official population. That could cost them a representative in Congress, That house seat would likely go to a growing state like Texas, Florida, Georgia, or Arizona.
Because the census counts the individuals that live in a state, and not just the citizens, all of the population, every resident, counts for apportionment in federal and state legislatures, as well as how grants and other government spending is distributed. So in addition to the loss of a congressman, Los Angeles and San Francisco could lose state representation to more rural areas, federal spending in California might be cut while California's tax burden goes unchanged.
On the other hand, as California harbors illegal aliens in their bug cities, they are inflating their population and costing others states the representation and money that California is trying to protect. While there are many legal residents who are not citizens, the census also counts people who are in the US illegally and they are included in the totals. So California is benefiting from refusing to enforce federal law.
You can see how this is a mess.
Who knows where this mess will end? Hopefully with the rule of law prevailing but without people legally in the US being scared by a census form.
The latest edition of Southern Living hit mailboxes this week. In this volume we find the special section on "The South's Best. Let me start by saying that this is NOT a rebuttal. This is not a challenge or an attempt to one up them. We're just taking a moment to offer a few alternatives to the crowdsource surveyed list our friends in Homewood compiled. Keep these in mind as the summer travel season approaches.
Sam Burnham, Curator
When I write about Georgia legends, I often find myself talking about the really big players in Georgia History. Oglethorpe, Tomochichi, Towns, Toombs, Stephens, Cobb, Colquitt, people who have counties named after them, statues at the capitol, museums in their honor. Today I'm writing about that same caliber of Georgian. He's a little more recent and might not have the accolades the others do but he probably will.
It really wasn't a big surprise to hear of the death of Governor Zell Miller. His family had announced a while back that he had retired completely from public life and would no longer make appearances. He was fighting Parkinson's Disease and that cruel affliction had progressed past the point of allowing Governor Miller to appear in public. This was a substantial loss for our state. It was a voice that spoke so eloquently, so powerfully, and sounded so much like our own.
Through Miller's leadership, Georgia made huge strides in education. He fought for teacher pay, school funding, and pushed for the Georgia Lottery which enabled the HOPE Scholarship which paid for the college educations of so many Georgia students.
There will be so many stories in the coming days that will recount his policies, his roles in government, and his speeches and writings. All of those are part of his legacy but there are things about Zell Miller that I don't want us to overlook. Most of his greatness comes from the fact that at no point in his career as Lt. Governor, Governor, or U.S. Senator did he ever quit being a man from Young Harris, Georgia. His very being, everything he did, was influenced by a small town in Appalachia and his raising there. Power and influence can steer people into weird places, places they would not ordinarily go, But all of those things just steered Zell back onto Highway 5, the road that now bears his name, and on home.
His political decisions were misunderstood by many. He got the nickname "Zig-Zag Zell" when people thought he was maneuvering through differences in policies, flipping from left to right and back, changing his mind at times. Looking back now it is clear. Zell Miller was a statesman, not a politician. He was wise and shrewd. Like almost every elected official in Georgia at that time, Miller was a Democrat. But unlike many in Georgia politics at the time, Miller was not going to kiss House Speaker Tom Murphy's ring. Far from simple zig-zagging was the simple truth - Zell Miller was going to do what Zell Miller was going to do. He did his own thinking. That's an underappreciated and underutilized virtue these days.
He had his famous speeches at both the Democratic and Republican national conventions. There was his glorious potlikker letter of correction to the editor of the New York Times, and the duel statement when being interviewed by Chris Matthews. He grew to regret the statement given to Matthews. But thousands of Georgians still look on it with pride. A condescending journalist in New York City got the talking to so many of us would have liked to give out. That voice sounded so much like ours and said what we were thinking. Do not mistake our accent for ignorance. Show us some respect. We loved him for it.
That voice is gone now. Silenced by the inevitable passage of time and a cruel disease that afflicts so many people. The Chris Matthews types are safe again to hand out snide comments from the safe place behind a desk. We've got a different governor and will have yet another come January. The Wagon Train Trail has lost a hiker and we have lost a legend. His legacy will live on the the HOPE Scholarship and the Zell Miller Institute and its Foundation. We are a better state because he was part of it. May the same be said of each of us one day.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire