Calif. attorney general talks suit against Trump on census

Marsha Scott
March 28, 2018

Commerce Department officials said that a Census Bureau analysis failed to provide "definitive, empirical support" that adding a citizenship question would reduce response rates, producing the sort of undercount feared by Becerra. If the census undercounts California residents, it could have far-reaching impacts, with a potential reduction in federal resources for the state and fewer seats in Congress.

The 2018 appropriation tops by more than $1 billion the $987 million Ross said the 2020 census needed. "California simply has too much to lose for us to allow the Trump Administration to botch this important decennial obligation".

But Congress went even further. Noting that 70% of the costs of the decennial census-now estimated to be $15.6 billion-come in the final 2 years, legislators in effect decided to make a down payment on that total in the 2018 budget.

The largess was welcome by census advocates.

"This is a question that's been included in every census since 1965 with the exception of 2010, when it was removed", said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

But preparing for 2020 isn't just about the money.

The Trump administration has provoked threats of lawsuits and a backlash from senior Democrats after deciding to reinstate a controversial question about citizenship status in the next USA census.

The Trump administration argues that obtaining broader and more specific data on citizenship is crucial to determine the population of eligible voters in each individual census block, a data point that's not now available. The decennial census is used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives, and to determine the total number of delegates each state receives in the Electoral College.

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The Washington Post's report on the Commerce Department's decision, written by Aaron Blake, devotes two paragraphs to the facts and then proceeds to the question that typically drives the Post's reporting: Is this good for Democrats? The DOJ and the courts use CVAP data for the enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits the drawing of election districts in ways that improperly dilute minorities' voting power. Officials say the data will help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights.

Civil rights groups dispute that argument.

"This untimely, unnecessary, and untested citizenship question will disrupt planning at a critical point, undermine years of painstaking preparation, and increase costs significantly, putting a successful, accurate count at risk", the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said in a statement. "Our objective is to have this citizenship question - which arbitrarily ignores decade after decade of our nation's regular census practices - not included in the 2020 Census". The facts suggest otherwise. A "dress rehearsal" for the census is already starting in Rhode Island.

The citizenship question is already part of the yearly American Community Survey. "Particularly in the current national climate, a citizenship question will obviously cause great consternation and discourage participation in the census".

Ross wrote that he did consider the possibility of a lower response rate.

Politicians were quick to react to Ross's decision.

"It's getting harder to conduct the census, due to a variety of factors, including increasing cultural & linguistic diversity, and distrust of the government", said Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist who directs the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. Ross's decision could enhance the prospects of such a bill, which was seen as having little chance of passage when it was introduced.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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