Democrats across the nation are deeply worried about the 2020 Census. The states that are most apt to lose representation after the new Census are mostly Democrat-dominated. The states most likely gain representation after the Census are mostly Republican-controlled. That is almost entirely due to residents of California, New York and Illinois fleeing to Florida, Texas and other states.
We spelled out in Part I of our Census series how California is spending an enormous amount of taxpayer money to ensure that all of the state’s hard-to-count populations — particularly illegal immigrants — are counted in the Census.
That is one big problem for Democrats. But the most controversial part of the Census is the citizenship question, which could exacerbate the first problem.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross approved plans last year to add the question, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” This has not been asked since 1950, but was asked in every Census before that.
“I’ve been watching the census since 1970, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation as problematic as this one,” said William O’Hare, a demographer and author who published a book this year studying past censuses. “It’s having a chilling effect on immigrant and Hispanic communities.”
Well, probably just the illegal ones. Of course, the division on this question mirrors the political division in the country on legal versus illegal immigration.
Nineteen Democrat Attorneys’ Generals challenged the inclusion of the question and the Supreme Court heard oral arguments last month after fast-tracking a review from a lower court ruling that would have prevented the question from being asked. Fast-tracking is unusual. The last time the high court granted such a petition for expedited review, which bypasses the appeals court, was in 2004. But the census questionnaire must be finalized by June 30 to start printing paper forms on time.
“Granting cert before judgment here shouldn’t be seen as any reflection of how the Court is likely to rule on the merits,” said Steve Vladeck, a law professor at University of Texas. “It’s just a sign that the Justices all understand the need to decide the matter, one way or the other, by June.”
If the Supreme Court upholds the administration’s ability to ask the question — and it is hard to see a legal reason why it wouldn’t, as it had been asked for more than 150 years and the Census is the purview of the administrative branch — there are other routes being set up to challenge the final count. (Possibly including another run at the question itself.)
Other possible routes of challenge relates to new technologies the Census Bureau is planning to use in the 2020 count and a lack of funds that forced the bureau to cancel planned tests. You can hear the setup in the verbiage Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, which includes the Census Bureau.
“I’m not confident they’re ready one year out. I’m very concerned. I’m concerned on where they are on their budget, I’m concerned on technology, I’m concerned on substance,” Connolly said. “They’re not meeting their own deadlines, and so what confidence does that give you that they’re going to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in 2020 when they actually conduct the census?”
Not surprisingly, he blames Republicans.
“Some of this is Congress’s fault because the Republican majority was unwilling to provide the resources they were told they needed, and we’re going to pay a price for that,” Connolly said.
It would not be unusual for some states or cities to challenge their part of the Census. There were 239 challenges after the 2010 census, according to the Christian Science Monitor. But those challenges can only be based on proving technical errors.
The use of new technology seems like a ripe area for charging technical errors. Perhaps the citizenship question could be cast in that light as well as the lack of funding causing technical problems. California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants his state to check the official Census results against the state’s estimate, to see how much of a difference there is — which could be grounds for another challenge.
The question is whether the lawsuits would seek to throw the entire Census out. While that would be a first in American history, nothing today seems outside the realm of possibility.
In fact, it appears that is the precise groundwork being laid.
Rod Thomson is an author, past Salem radio host, ABC TV commentator, former journalist and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act.