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Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
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Frank Bernheisel
Posted 4.7.18
Just Outside Washington

FRANK BERNHEISEL & KATHY KAVANAUGH

The U.S. 2020 Census ~ Action is Needed

The 2020 Census is fast approaching and is currently being given a test run in Rhode Island. At this late date, the Trump Administration and Congress have decided to play games with the decennial count of people in the U.S. required by the Constitution.

Because the Census is so important, both Kath and I have been active on this issue including contacting our elected officials. Playing political games with the Census is bad enough but it gets worse. The instigator behind adding the controversial citizenship question to the Census is John Gore, an attorney who defended laws designed to weaken the voting rights of African-Americans, including the Virginia racial gerrymandering case.

John Gore was selected by President Donald Trump to serve as deputy assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department -- a bit of the fox in the hen house.

Kathy wrote the following piece on the Census for the League of Women Voters newsletter.

Potential 'Faulty' 2020 Census and Redistricting Reform

The LWV is a strong supporter and 'educator' of redistricting reform as demonstrated by the large turnout at the February 25th Redistricting Forum held in conjunction with OneVirginia 2021.

There is an immediate pre-redistricting step that needs support and a strong outreach commitment from all League members and anyone else who can be enlisted. A push for Congressional action on the 2020 Census is needed now. While recognizing that there are many urgent, important issues demanding our attention, if left unaddressed, inaccurate, faulty census data will negatively impact redistricting, state and Congressional representation, allocation of federal funding for a myriad of activities and programs, as well as business decisions for the 2020 decade.

At this time, the 2020 Census is underfunded; behind schedule in preparation and testing; lacks qualified leadership and management; and faces proposals to add new questions too late in the process for proper testing, in particular a query on citizenship proposed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that will discourage insecure citizens and non-citizens from participating in the census.

Whats going on

The U.S. Constitution requires that every tenth year a complete census is taken that counts every person in the country. A successful census requires years of preparation and testing prior to the actual data collection.

Census data affect the reapportionment of House seats; serve as benchmarks for business and government decisions; inform a wide range of government policies; and impact the distribution of billions of federal funds and grants to states and local governments.

A poorly conducted or failed census means some people will be uncounted and, therefore, unrepresented in our society. Minorities, low-income individuals, and those living in rural, less-populated areas, are especially vulnerable to being overlooked.

First, funding must be shored up. Current funding is less than the Bureau requested to prepare for and conduct the upcoming census. In fact, in year 8 of the census cycle, the 2020 Census funding is way behind censuses conducted in 1990, 2000, and 2010.

Next, the census project requires competent individuals with proven leadership and management skills and a well-trained, highly qualified staff. At this critical time, the top two positions in the Bureau are 'Acting' -- the Director and the Deputy Director. Several other top-level positions in vital areas, including Communications, Information Technology, and Field Operations, are also being led by temporary management. These positions need to be filled with permanent managers immediately.

Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the DOJ has relied exclusively on citizenship data collected through robust but much smaller surveys -- most recently the American Community Survey (ACS). Inclusion of the DOJ-requested citizenship question 1) adversely impacts the schedule, which as noted above, is already delayed; and 2) more importantly, will result in dramatically inaccurate data if undocumented immigrants or their relatives and friends are fearful of responding to the survey.

What's needed

The LWV-Fairfax introduced the Census Support issue to the state board. At this time, support by individuals is urgently needed: contacting the national League of Women Voters athttp://forum.lwv.org/member-resources/article/state-and-local-league-request-form-federal-issues and your U.S. Representative and Senators via telephone calls, e-mails, or letters. Staff in both Senator Kaine's and Senator Warner's offices indicate that neither has taken a position on this important issue.

Proposed actions are to request the national League of Women Voters and your Representative and Senators to:

(1) support two pieces of legislation to increase funding for the 2020 Census, H.R. 4013, ';2020 American Census Investment Act', and S.2366, 'Census Funding Cap Adjustment Act of 2018' and a third to prohibit the use of questions on citizenship, nationality, or immigration status in any decennial census, H.R. 4906, 'Ensuring Full Participation in the Census Act of 2018
(2) ensure the appointment of non-political, experienced, professionals to lead the Census Bureau; and
(3) take a stand against the addition of a question on citizenship.

Working to accomplish these three actions supports the 2020 census and the upcoming redistricting processes.

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