The decennial census is the basis upon which this country allocates its two most important resources: political power and federal funds.
Therefore, an accurate census count is basic to the ideals of democracy.
Every decennial census result in an undercount; typically, minorities and the poor have the highest undercount; this is coupled with a smaller but significant overcount of Whites.
There have been 24 censuses conducted since the beginning of the Republic in 1776. The US Census is conducted between April and October of the beginning of the decade – 1990, 2000, 2010, etc.
This is the first decade, 2020, in which the decennial census was conducted during a pandemic. The Census Bureau has warned that the pandemic has presented a set of problems that will increase the undercount. Experts predict an eight percent to ten undercount resulting in gross injustice in the distribution of federal resources to the disadvantage of minority voters.
To make matters worse, President Trump has continually demagogued immigrants causing noncitizens to be redescent about filling out the census form.
Moreover, the Trump administration attempted to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census Form even though the Census Bureau Scientist warned that a citizenship question would exacerbate the undercount. Fortunately, we successfully struck the citizenship
question from the 2020 US Census Form with a 5-4 victory in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Issues still being litigated in federal court have to do with whether noncitizens should be counted at all in apportioning congressional districts in the various states. The Supreme Court is taking up the matter.
During the 1990s President Clinton’s established the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses; the commission successfully led to changes in federal policy addressing the medical needs of our Gulf War Veteran. Because of the commission’s conclusions, veterans were able to more easily prosecute their injuries caused by Agent Orange exposure.
If Biden is elected, he should set up a Presidential Advisory Committee on the 2020 US Census Undercount. As part of the 2000 Census the Census Bureau recommended an adjustment to correct for this undercount; this was not done because the incoming Bush Administration failed to implement the planned corrections. I urge the Census Bureau to evaluate a similar recommendation for the 2020 Census.
Our democracy is based on accurate census data so that political power and federal resources can be accurately and fairly allocated.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by civil rights attorney Rolando L. Rios of San Antonio. Rios’ law firm, Rolando L. Rios & Associates has represented Hidalgo and Cameron counties on redistricting and census issues for decades. The guest column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. Rios can be reached at: [email protected]
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