The Controversy Over a Question

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss preparing for the 2020 Census, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. The Trump administration acknowledged on Thursday that billions more dollars are "urgently needed" to ensure a fair and accurate count during the 2020 Census. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The United States as a sovereign nation has a right to know who are the citizens and the non-citizens living within its borders.  It is a question of preserving the integrity of our democracy which, in turn, is predicated upon the integrity of our elections.  While much is made of Russian interference in our election impugning the process, a more insidious form of “interference” occurs where non-citizens may be casting votes, perhaps not enough to change an electoral outcome, but insidious nonetheless.

What has gotten the Left’s knickers all twisted is a question on the upcoming 2020 Census form that asks for the citizenship status of the respondents.  Without this legitimate question, the data received would be inflating the number of people who are voter-eligible in a voting district.  The underlying reason for the Census is to determine the composition of the House of Representatives.  With the number fixed at 435, the population is divided by that number and states are apportioned representatives accordingly.  Since non-citizens cannot vote in federal elections and the purpose of the Census is to determine such, it is simple commonsense that this question be included on the Census come 2020.

Democratic opposition to the question is not a surprise since they see no distinction between legal and illegal immigrants.  Because illegal immigrants which represent a head count regardless of their voting power and since they tend to reside in blue states, or blue districts (metropolitan) within states, the ruckus being raised is simply nothing more than a ruse to retain political power in these areas.

The state of California, along with several others, have filed a lawsuit against inclusion of the question in 2020.  Their demented response is far out of proportion to the request.  Simply, they are scared that this will deplete their numbers in Congress.  They use, as an excuse, illegal immigrants will not answer the question out of unfounded fear and thus there will be an under count of population in the areas where they dominate.

When former Attorney General Eric Holder weighs into the controversy, you know something is up.  He has stated that the decision is motivated by “pure politics.”  Mind you- this is the same Eric Holder who had no problem including on the 2010 Census a question about one’s sexual orientation, a question- it can be argued- that is more intrusive than one’s citizenship status.  The inclusion of that statement was motivated by pure politics.  He further stated that the citizenship question is “a direct attack on our representative democracy.”  In other words, getting an accurate count of people ineligible to vote is a subversion of representative democracy?  His argument turns the phrase “representative democracy” on its head!

Further, contrary to popular belief, the Census Bureau does not conduct a census and fall asleep for ten years.  Every year, they send out to 3.5 million households a survey called the American Community Survey (ACS) which studies population trends.  And on that questionnaire, which Holder NEVER contested, was a question of citizenship status.

Claiming the question is unconstitutional, the states suing the government are showing their ignorance.  Until 1950 and since 1800, the Census form asked this very question in some form.  If it was constitutional then, it is constitutional now.  The Census Bureau later switched to a long and short form, both of which were mandatory.  That long form, which was in use until 2000 at least, further asked of citizenship status.  The long form was discontinued after the 2000 census and replaced by the ACS which is a sampling of the population and, thus, not completely accurate, but pretty darn close.

In furtherance of an example of their ignorance, most of those who had problems with the question were given input before the decision was made.  They were largely unaware that citizenship status had been questioned in some form for 200 years of the census.  Further, the question posited is whether the respondent is a citizen and does not ask about their legal status.  The ACS has far more intrusive questions about finances and the number of toilets in one’s household.

Those who oppose the question cannot point to empirical data of any kind to suggest the alleged deleterious effects will occur.  For example, the Census Bureau notes that the question on the ACS does not depress responses as the detractors predict.  One person who was consulted and who now works for Nielson polling noted that when they ask the question, there is no appreciable depression in responses.

The fear among those on the Left, especially in this era of Trump paranoia, is that illegal immigrants will not answer the question, or ignore the questionnaire altogether and therefore it will result in an under-count.  Considering that the United Nations suggests that countries ask this very question and every nation from Australia to Indonesia does so should be ample proof of its need.

As for the constitutionality of the question, considering it was on every census from 1820 to 1960 and on long forms until 2000 and on the ACS to this day, it appears the detractors had no problems with it then.  Further, Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 gives the “enumeration” or census to Congress, not the states.  Congress has given the Commerce Department and Census Bureau the power to determine the content of the questions.  The claim that asking a citizenship question on the census as being unconstitutional flies in the face of over 200 years of census-taking.

The American public has a right to obtain an accurate accounting of the electorate.  As Thomas Jefferson suggested in 1800 and as the census has done throughout most of our history, that includes knowing how many citizens and non-citizens make up the republic.  In the end, the question does not negate the overall head count unless households refuse to answer the question or ignore the form.  That is on them.  The fear of the Left is unwarranted.