GOP is Destroying the Illusion of Representative Democracy. The Census is being purposefully underfunded to undercount Black, Latino and Asian populations which are expanding and growing rapidly. The white population is declining.
Demographic data collected by the Census Bureau are used to distribute more than $600 billion a year in federal funds and to determine how many seats in Congress each state gets. But there are worries that the 2020 Census will produce a less accurate count than in decades past.
Underfunding already has forced the bureau to delay an advertising campaign and cancel some field tests. Any scaling back of outreach efforts could impact how immigrants, communities of color and rural communities are counted, census watchers say.
The results of the U.S. census are far more important than most Americans realize. Census data are the starting point for redistricting and reapportionment – adding and removing House districts from states as population changes dictate – not to mention the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funding. Housing assistance, highway maintenance and Medicare/Medicaid are just three examples of programs that distribute federal dollars to states in the form of grants based on census results. Undercounting populations guarantees that over the next decade, states will be strapped for funding in these areas.
"This would lead to a result that deprives population groups of equal political representation and access to their fair share of public and private resources," wrote Vanita Gupta — a former Obama administration official who now heads The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights — in statement submitted to the House committee.
And that is likely to happen if Republicans in Congress get their way. Under cover of the non-stop Trump circus, they are quietly working behind the scenes to ensure that the 2020 census fails – and fails to their advantage.
This time around, the GOP controls the White House and have House and Senate majorities pending the 2018 midterm elections. The Trump administration and Congress are working to ensure that the Census Bureau is required to do its work the old-fashioned way – counting heads door-to-door, using mail-and-return forms or asking households to respond to an online survey – while simultaneously depriving the bureau of the fundingnecessary to do so effectively.
If they get their way, and a cash-starved Census Bureau is prevented from supplementing its direct counting methods with the latest technology, the predictable result will be a census based largely on mail-and-return paper forms and voluntary online responses. As we saw in late-20th-century censuses, there will be a serious undercount – one that particularly underrepresents African-Americans and Hispanics.
This can happen because the Census Bureau is now led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a Trump crony and former leveraged buyout specialist who infamously struck a deal with Trump Taj Mahal investorsallowing Trump to retain control after bankrupting the casino in the early Nineties. The Census Bureau has been without a director since 27-year bureau veteran John Thompson resigned in May over the politically motivated defunding of his department. As with most vacancies under Trump, no replacement has been appointed. An interim director was quietly named in late June, suggesting that the position will remain unfilled.
And it gets worse. Few Americans, even in Congress, realize that the census is a count of population, not of citizens. Every man, woman and child in a given area is counted, whether U.S. citizen, legal resident or undocumented immigrant. Trump-era Immigration and Customs Enforcement crackdowns, though largely fruitless, are highly likely to have a major chilling effect on non-citizens, regardless of legal status. Even under ideal conditions for the Census Bureau, the fear generated by aggressive and well-publicized ICE raids are expected to suppress the counts of Hispanics, immigrant communities and non-U.S. citizens.
It's a deceptively simple scheme: Trump and his commerce secretary impose rules on the Census Bureau based on the belief that science and data analysis are fake news. Congress squeezes the bureau's funding, reducing the quality of the work it can do. ICE threatens non-citizens with deportation to seriously dampen enthusiasm for participating. And then the results of the 2020 census will be based largely on voluntary responses to mail-in and online surveys, giving an incomplete and demographically skewed picture of the U.S. population.
As the first U.S. census to rely mainly on web responses, the 2020 count comes with the risk of cybersecurity attacks and the challenge of creating technical infrastructure to capture data. In February, the 2020 Census was added to the Government Accountability Office's list of "high-risk" government projects.
The method for reapportioning seats in the House – and, therefore, in the Electoral College – is sensitive to relatively small changes in state populations. The range of predictions online shows that slightly different estimates produce different results. The last few seats assigned could go to one state or another based on a relative handful of residents. This process doesn't require a heavy hand to influence the outcome. [MORE]