Let's Fix This Country
democracy

And Now They’re Sabotaging the Census

President Trump's new postmaster general has decreed policy designed to slow the delivery of mail. The objective is to clog the pipeline so mail-in ballots don't reach their destinations by the deadline. But that is designed only for the coming election, whereas the

Census Bureau has announced a policy designed to affect our democracy for the next ten years. Bureau director Steven Dillingham announced that census-taking would end a full month sooner whether or not it was complete.

One could see what was coming when in June the bureau, an agency that has always been strictly non-partisan and staffed with professionals such as demographers, announced the creation of two top-level positions filled with outsiders, one of whom had appeared dozens of times on television and radio to comment on politics and had written opinion pieces criticizing the case for Trump's impeachment. Before their appointment, the two had worked for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department operates the Census Bureau. They had been sent to the Census Bureau where staffers said they had asked puzzling questions of why they thought it was necessary to seek out hard to reach residents, by which is meant minorities, low-income people, and the undocumented. Their appointments were greeted with alarm as indicating that now, under the Trump administration, even the census will be politicized, with counts engineered to favor the Republican Party.

The hard-to-count come to some 40% of the population and require an army of census takers to go door-to-door to seek them out. The canvass had already been delayed by the pandemic when the Trump administration announced at the beginning of August the full month foreshortening, which means that in six weeks the impossible must be accomplished, which it surely won't. A statement from four former Census Bureau directors who had served under both Republican and

Democratic administrations warned that the earlier cutoff would "result in seriously incomplete enumerations in many areas across our country". Federal law calls for final census counts to be on the president's desk by December 31, but the pandemic caused the bureau to ask for an extension to April of next year. The House approved, but the Republican-controlled Senate, whose party has an interest in seeing minorities undercounted, has not agreed. Allowing the April date to stand would risk giving control of the census counts to Democrats should Biden win. So the deadline remains the end of 2020.

A memorandum was circulated in the Census Bureau at the beginning of August about using statistical methods to create a state-by-state estimate of illegal immigrants with a cover letter asking for "thoughts, questions, and concerns". It was thought to have been written by the two appointees and raised suspicions that the purpose was to arrive at numbers to be deducted from blue state counts so as to change the number of congressional representatives in favor of Republicans.

Job #1

The census was the first thing the newly adopted Constitution of 1789 instructed the United States to do, so important that it is the document's 6th sentence. It orders that an "actual Enumeration shall be made" of persons in the country every 10 years in order to apportion to the states, based on their respective numbers, delegates to the House of Representatives.

Just days after Donald Trump was sworn in, Secretary Ross began pressing to add to the census form the question "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" The question was intended to deter undocumented immigrants from answering. In this atmosphere of an administration that separates asylum applicants from their children, conducts deportation raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and has a president who tweets that immigrants are criminals and rapists, the undocumented already in the country will be too fearful to submit a census form with an obligatory answer to that question. Nor will they answer the door when census-takers make the rounds to fill in who's missing. A 'yes' answer would be fraud risking a prison sentence; a 'no' answer would self-identify as illegally in the country and invite deportation, they fear.

Many Americans would prefer that non-citizens not be counted, but short counts in states with large Latino populations — California, Florida, Texas, e.g. — could lose one or two representatives in Congress. Apportionments by the federal government to the states of hundreds of billions of dollars a year are also based on the census and would be reduced by undercounts.

Law suits against adding the citizenship question ensued over the next two years. Ross's Commerce Department could not substantiate any reason to add the question, so Bill Barr's Justice Department collaborated by saying it needed the question's data to aid in enforcing the Voting Rights Act, which its own officials under deposition said was a sham. Ross lied to Congress, which no longer seem to draw any repercussion, saying the White House was never involved, but that was given the lie by phone records and e-mails turned up by one of the law suits. In other words, the administration's claims were marinated in fraud.

The case worked its way to the Supreme Court which saw through the "contrived" and "pretextual" deceit and ruled 5-to-4 against adding the question, with Chief Justice Roberts siding with the liberal end of the bench.

This president will not be denied

Mr. Trump's next move was to issue an executive order to all agencies that citizenship data be compiled from existing government sources. That was followed up this July by his directing the government not to count undocumented immigrants when apportioning House seats. It would be clearly against a Constitution that calls for counting everyone. Proof is that slaves were to be counted, although disgracefully as 3/5ths of a person. Right-leaning sources looked for ways around the Constitution. A Wall Street Journal op-ed went through contortions to support the president, saying that the intention of the founders was for only "inhabitants" to be counted. Trouble is, while the word occurs several times in the Constitution, it is never mentioned in conjunction with the census. To remedy that, the op-ed authors found the phrase "number of inhabitants" was used at the Constitutional Convention, that while only "number" survived in the finished document, "inhabitants" was implicit. And besides, they argued, an illegal immigrant living here did not really "inhabit" our country.

In a written statement, Trump said,

"There used to be a time when you could proudly declare, 'I am a citizen of the United States'. But now, the radical left is trying to erase the existence of this concept and conceal the number of illegal aliens in our country. This is all part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of American citizens, and I won't stand for it."

How rights would be eroded was not explained and adhering to the Constitution is now left-wing subversion. The many voter suppression tactics, Trump's furious campaign against mail-in ballots, and here the corruption of the census — all are part of Republicans' desperate attempts to hold power as the non-Hispanic white majority in the United States is threatened to become a minority.



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