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Chicago Census Recount? Rahm Emanuel Challenges City Population Estimate

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The most recent U.S. Census data was described by some as a "shellacking" of Chicago, which reportedly saw a 200,000 person drop in population over 10 years -- and Mayor Rahm Emanuel isn't going to stand for it.

The mayor announced Saturday that he has challenged the U.S. Census Bureau's count of the city's population and is asking the bureau to review their data. His office estimates that as much as $3 million in additional annual federal funding could be at stake in the bureau arriving at a more "accurate" population estimate.

"The accuracy of the Census is of critical importance for its role in determining federal funding distributed to our city," Emanuel explained in a statement. "In order to ensure Chicago residents receive their full share of funding, it is my responsibility to work in partnership with the Census Bureau to correct any errors that may have occurred in 2010."

As the Chicago Tribune reports, mayoral challenges of Census findings are not all that unusual. In both 2000 and 1990, former Mayor Richard M. Daley launched unsuccessful attempts to see the city's population numbers increased by the bureau. New York, Houston, Miami and Detroit have also challenged the bureau's 2010 findings.

Last spring, 45 Chicago aldermen signed on to a resolution urging the Census Bureau to re-figure the city's numbers. While the city would have to pay for such a count to take place, they believe even a slight increase could make up for that cost.

"It translates into hundreds of millions of dollars over a ten-year period that will affect the city of Chicago," Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said in April. "It will impact on everything we do - from roads, new construction."

The mayor reports that his office relied on utility account data, Certificates of Occupancy and field research to estimate that the bureau may have missed as many as 1,160 additional housing units and 2,350 individuals. The city stands to rake in an additional $1,200 in federal funds each year for each individual the census is found to have overlooked.

The most recent census's Chicago findings have impacted a number of political matters in the city in recent months. By the time the months-long ward remap battle concluded earlier this year, the city's Black Caucus took a hit in representation on City Council due to the census's estimate that the city's African-American population decreased by 181,000 -- or a whopping 17 percent -- over the past decade.

More broadly, the state of Illinois also lost a U.S. House of Representatives seat.

The city's population is currently estimated to be approximately what it was in 1910 -- and the recent decline in population has also had an impact on voter registration. The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners announced last week that the city's number of registered voters is currently the lowest it has been since 1942, the first year when the city began to track such matters.

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