Last week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for held a hearing on the inclusion of a citizenship question on the U.S. Census. The League was pleased to see Chairman Gowdy, Ranking Member Cummings and the rest of the committee take this issue seriously. But the architect behind the inclusion of the proposed question, John Gore, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division was a no-show.
The Committee should continue to shed light on the process and demand the documentation and answers justifying the decision to include this question. The last time the Census included a question about citizenship was in 1950, well before the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). There is no justification to the Department of Justice’s claims that adding a citizenship question is necessary to enforce the VRA. The American people deserve to know the motivations behind including the citizenship question.
The League believes including a question pertaining to citizenship in the 2020 Census will cause participation to plummet and threaten the accuracy of the Census. Census data is not only used to draw state and congressional districts based on population, but it is also used by local governments to plan for public safety and make investments in the future of their communities. An undercount of persons in any given area could result in inadequate disaster responders, insufficient resources for transportation, education and impacts to the overall health and safety of communities.
It is up to Congress to exercise oversight authority over the Census Bureau and the League calls on this Committee to use their power and remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census. The League will be watching when the hearing continues and we look forward to members of the committee continuing to ask the tough and necessary questions about the inclusion of the proposed citizenship question.