On specific alternatives—the use of surname lists having been invoked—Salvo added that it was challenging to come up with a comprehensive list for Asian Indian languages, but the advocacy groups were up to the task. It is, he said, a task that “borders on insanity” and was tremendously difficult. But—just as Gobalet found for the Hispanic surname list in Monterey County—Salvo conceded that it was interesting that the process yielded good results, when “combined with other items and combined with reality checks on the ground.” (Or at least, he hastened to add, the process yielded good results—with the “goodness” yet to be determined with the performance of poll sites in November.)
With the floor opened up to general questions and comment, Steve Murdock added a comment concurring with Gobalet about what would happen without the ACS. He recalled a time in the mid-1980s, working in Texas and being delivered a bunch of data from the Texas Department of Human Resources—“just incredible breakdowns,” for all manner of demographic subgroups, for all 254 counties in the state. When he called the department and asked how they had arrived at what was presented as current and detailed data, they replied—essentially—that they had “made up population estimates for the counties and we used the same rates, or whatever, that were in the 1980 census.” His concern is that the same form of crude extrapolation, from increasingly old and unreliable data, would be the alternative if the ACS were to be discontinued.
Lester Tsosie (Navajo Nation) asked the presenters to comment on the social equity uses of the ACS in light of the changing demographics of the nation, with longstanding racial and ethnic minorities becoming more significant segments of the total population. The state of New Mexico is already at or near “majority minority” status, with about half the population in the 2010 census being of Hispanic origin; do the presenters have a sense of implications—more injustice or less injustice—from changing demographics, first in states like Arizona and New Mexico and later in other parts of the nation, particularly if the ACS were weakened? Gobalet answered bluntly that her sense is that neither the letter nor the intent of the federal Voting Rights Act—as currently written and interpreted by the courts—can be enforced without ACS data. Beveridge replied to Gobalet’s point that, unfortunately and ironically, “there are people who would be fine with that.” That said, he agreed that—without the ACS data—it is simply impossible to accommodate the demographic changes Tsosie referred to with respect to voting.
Alan Zaslavsky (Harvard University) said that he was struck in this session, and in some earlier sessions, that the point is made about small counties in rural areas suffering from lack of ACS samples—even though, operationally, their rates are higher in some cases because of concern about producing estimates for local civil divisions. Given that much of the work described here involves very small areas (and very small areas within urban areas as well), are there impli-