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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Trump Administration is Trying to Skew Census Results

The Washington Post reports on the latest attempt by the Trump administration and many Republicans in Congress to throw a monkey wrench into the 2020 Census, this time with a particular focus to skew the results toward Republicans. The Justice Department is requesting that a question be asked on the 100-percent short-form count about citizenship.
Investigative reporting organization ProPublica disclosed last week that a Justice Department official formally asked the Census Bureau to add a question to the 2020 Census. Adding any question at this stage would be dicey, given that the bureau often runs extensive field tests before fiddling with its forms, ensuring that last-minute changes do not throw off its counting efforts. Worse, the Justice Department requested that the bureau inquire about people’s citizenship status. This threatens to sabotage the 2020 count.
Asking about citizenship status would drive down response rates. Since its inception, the census has not only counted voters; it has taken a precise snapshot of everyone in the country. This helps government agencies to direct scarce dollars, and businesses to guide investment decisions. It is also crucial for doling out congressional representation. As the Supreme Court recently underscored, the Constitution requires that congressional seats be apportioned to states according to their total populations, not only their voting populations. Asking about citizenship status would deter undocumented people — or even legal immigrants who fear how far the Trump administration’s crackdown on foreigners will extend — from returning census forms. Many states — particularly blue states — could end up shortchanged.
The American Community Survey (ACS), which replaced the long-form on the census as of the 2010 census, does ask a question about citizenship, so we have those data for a sample of the population, but not for the total count data that are used for redistricting. And, as the editorial board of the Washington Post points out, the only purpose of adding that question to the 100 percent count form would be to discourage immigrants from responding, thus skewing results more in favor of people who are more likely to be Republican voters. This is a genuine constitutional issue and needs to be resisted.

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