In 2020, the United States will conduct another national census, the results of which will have a wide-ranging impact on Congressional representation and the allocation of federal funds to the states.
But as the government prepares to conduct the upcoming census, the Department of Justice is now seriously considering adding a question to census forms, which could depress immigrant participation and skew the results badly.
The additional question, which appeared in a letter from the DOJ obtained by ProPublica, argues that the Justice Department has a need for citizenship data as a way of enforcing the Voting Rights Act:
“…And its important protections against racial discrimination in voting.”
Asked about the letter, an official with the Census Bureau commented that the request:
“Will go through the well-established process that any potential question would go through.”
Adding such a question, however, is tantamount to sabotage and could fundamentally alter the true nature of the census, according to Arturo Vargas, a member of the National Advisory Committee of the Census. He said:
“This is a recipe for sabotaging the census. When you start adding last-minute questions that are not tested — how will the public understand the question? How much will it suppress response rates?”
Those comments were echoed by Steve Jost, who served as a top official for the 2010 census and said the goal of the census is to count everyone, not just citizens:
“People are not going to come out to be counted because they’re going to be fearful the information would be used for negative purposes. This line about enforcing voting rights is a new and scary twist.”
Another troubling sign from the administration regarding the upcoming census comes in the form of who the White House wants to oversee the process. Politico recently reported that the White House may appoint Texas professor Thomas Brunell to the top operational job at the Census Bureau.
Brunell, who has no government experience whatsoever, authored the 2008 book, Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.