Jul 11 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) have joined Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) in cosponsoring legislation to protect the decennial census from partisan whims aimed at intimidating respondents and curbing participation. The Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (Census IDEA) Act will help safeguard the integrity of the 2020 census by ensuring that any proposed changes to the count are adequately studied and researched prior to being added to the questionnaire. This follows a United States Supreme Court decision on June 27 that blocked the Trump Administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, citing insufficient justification for adding the question.
“The census is a critical undertaking in our democracy that helps determine the number of representatives and federal dollars given to states. Additionally, many businesses rely on census population data to decide where to open new stores, buy advertising, or deploy wireless broadband infrastructure. Therefore, it’s extremely important that we ensure the accuracy of the count and prevent it from being shaped by political motives,” said the Senators. “This bill will ensure that any additional question be presented with enough time for Congress to review its effects and help keep the census an independent tool for the American people.”
Last year, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross proposed adding a question to the census that would ask respondents about their citizenship status, likely preventing individuals from responding and thus drastically undercounting people in many immigrant and Latino communities. The Census Bureau’s own estimates indicate that the inclusion of a citizenship question would prompt a 2.2 percent drop in census responses – including an 8 percent drop in participation by households with at least one non-citizen. Following the Supreme Court’s decision to block this question, the Justice Department moved to replace its team of lawyers on the case – a move that was also rejected on Tuesday by a federal judge who cited a lack of satisfactory reasons for the swap.
In order to ensure the integrity of the census, the Census IDEA Act would:
- Prevent last-minute operational changes that have not been properly researched, studied, and tested at least 3 years prior to the next decennial census date;
- Ensure that subjects, types of information, and questions that have not been submitted to Congress according to existing law are not included;
- Require biannual reports on the U.S. Census Bureau’s operation plan, including the status of its research and testing; a report on the agency’s operational plan 5 years prior to the next decennial census; and require that these reports be publicly available on the Bureau’s website;
- Direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office to determine and report to Congress that the subjects, types of information, and questions on the decennial census have been researched, studied, and tested to the same degree as previous decennial censuses; and
- Apply the provisions of this bill only to the decennial census, and not the mid-decade census or the American Community Survey.
Sens. Warner and Kaine, who sponsored this bill last Congress, have opposed politically motivated efforts to change longstanding practices in asking about citizenship status and have advocated for robust funding for the 2020 census. Last month, Sen. Warner joined Sen. Schatz and 27 other Senators in calling for Secretary Ross to meet the administration’s previously set deadline of July 1 to begin printing materials for the 2020 Census.
The Census IDEA Act has the support of the American Anthropological Association, American Civil Liberties Union, American Sociological Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Coalition on Human Needs, Common Cause, Consortium of Social Science Associations, Japanese American Citizens League, NAACP LDF, NALEO Educational Fund, National Education Association, National Employment Law Project, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Urban League, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Service Employees International Union, Society for Research in Child Development, and Union of Concerned Scientists.
Other cosponsors of the Census IDEA Act include U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).