The current president of the United States is attempting to manipulate the national census by adding a citizenship question.
If successful, this will effectively turn the census into a tool for voter suppression.
UPDATE: 04/03/2018 03:41 PM PST: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is leading the charge in a multi-state lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Bureau of the Census. The state of New York is joined by 16 other states, the District of Columbia, and six cities throughout the U.S.
To put that in perspective, the last time the question was asked, the country was still enforcing segregationist Jim Crow laws.
To essentialize the issue, this decision will effectively upend our system of redistricting, making it more difficult for immigrants and people of color to gain representation.
Even without such an inherently exclusionary question, the 2010 census undercounted 1.5 million people, primarily members of minority communities, low-income communities, and communities of color.
Disproportionately, the Census Bureau also reported that it over-counted the total population in the U.S. by 36,000 people primarily due to white, affluent individuals who were counted multiple times due to owning multiple properties.
“By including a citizenship question, which will diminish response rates, the census will not be able to fulfill its constitutional duty to count everyone.” – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra
Heading into 2020, the Census Bureau already faces crippling budget cuts that will decrease the number of census workers involved in door-to-door canvassing by introducing an online response form.
What does all of this mean?
For starters, regardless of which party you’re in, national security and the integrity of our governmental and electoral processes should be something that we all agree is of the utmost importance.
In the wake of Russia’s influence on the 2016 election through Facebook advertising, the harvesting and selling of Facebook user data by Cambridge Analytica, and the recent ransomware attack on the city of Atlanta, one would think that our government would be at least somewhat sensitive of the risks of computerized systems.
But this online system won’t simply open the U.S. and its citizens up to attack, it will also systematically and inherently exclude those with less access to the internet — primarily communities of color and low-income communities — as well as systematically targeting non-citizens.
This exclusion from the census will have far-reaching consequences outside of exposing vulnerable communities,
“It affects how $675 billion in federal funding is allocated to states and localities. It affects how many congressional seats and electoral votes states get. It affects how local and federal districts are drawn. It affects the data that every institution in America, from corporations to universities to the military, uses to understand their populations. And so, if the census is rigged, if the census is manipulated, then all of American democracy is rigged and manipulated as a result. ” – Journalist Ari Berman
The Constitution of the United States called for the counting of the country’s population, not the number of citizens in each state or in the country.
This is because districting, the process by which a state is broken up into voting districts and allotted congressional seats and electoral votes, has also been ruled by the Supreme Court as recently as 2016 to be based on population, not citizenship.
So, if immigrants, communities of color, and low-income communities are systematically excluded from the 2020 census, it will literally change the political map of America to reflect a non-factual, non-realistic population that will almost assuredly favor white, conservative citizens for at least a decade to come.
Currently, 12 states are threatening to sue the current administration to block the addition of the obviously manipulative question.
But with the appointment of Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, it’s unclear how the issue will play out in the Supreme Court — assuming it gets there.