The census shouldn’t be altered
The Middletown Times Herald-Record on the 2020 census
So it turns out that the motivation for adding a question on citizenship to the 2020 United States Census was all about depressing the return among minority populations so that Republicans could increase their advantage at the polls.
You don’t have to take the word of Democrats for that. You don’t even have to take the word of the three federal courts that have not gone quite as far as to certify political motives but have consistently ruled that the administration’s stated goal — to improve enforcement of the 1985 Voting Rights Act — is not credible.
No, for the real story you have to look at the hard drives on a computer of a GOP operative, the late Thomas B. Hofeller, who concluded that the question was essential to the goal of reducing the number of Hispanics counted, which would distort the numbers that determine the makeup of congressional districts.
In New York, for example, a state struggling to hold onto its seats as population declines, an undercount of Hispanic residents would accelerate that trend and perhaps cost even more seats with a consequent reduction of clout in Washington.
This scheme has not received anywhere near the attention it deserves considering that it attacks one of the fundamental pillars of the nation.
The Census as envisioned by those who wrote the Constitution was created and mandated to count everyone who lived in the nation and to use that number to determine what share of the fixed number of members in the House of Representatives each state would be entitled to.
To start with, the number of House members determines the importance of each state in the Electoral College which chooses a president every four years. As we have seen twice in recent decades, the Electoral College can put in the White House someone who did not win the popular vote. The Census does have an initial, practical impact.
In addition, since the passage of the Constitution, Census numbers have been used to determine many other federal actions, especially the way the government allocates spending.
When the Trump Administration proposed adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census, it raised an immediate alarm. It already is difficult to get everyone to respond to the questionnaires and even the in-person visits that the Census Bureau uses to make sure the count is as accurate as it can be every decade. With its assault on immigration, the administration has made those with and without documentation fearful and likely to avoid answering the door or returning the survey.
All of that was just a theory, of course, the usual political divide in a divided time. Then the writings of the political operative came to light, showing that the plan he supported to suppress the count for minorities turned up word for word in the administration’s original draft request.
Now it is up to the Supreme Court, another creation of the Constitution, to determine if the 2020 Census will be the neutral and complete count that the founders envisioned or just another tool to be used by the Republican Party to give it an advantage at the polls.