If the 2020 census didn’t have enough uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration also wanted to include a citizenship question to further skew districts for Republicans. As a new report from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform shows, a secret memo was uncovered showing that the Trump administration explored using apportionment to add the question, NPR reports.
“The Committee’s investigation has exposed how a group of political appointees sought to use the census to advance an ideological agenda and potentially exclude non-citizens from the apportionment count,” the report released by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform said.
Since the first census count in 1790, U.S. citizens and non-citizens have been included in the total count regardless of their immigration status. The apportionment process means the Trump administration would have used state population counts to divide the number of congressional seats each state gets. There were already reported problems that the 2020 census undercounted Black, Latino, and Native American populations. Even though earlier drafts of two years questioned the constitutionality of an addition to the census, the administration still looked for ways to add it anyway.
This is despite a 2019 Supreme Court ruling which blocked the citizenship question and rejected Trump’s lawyers’ claims that it was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act. The high court later allowed the Trump administration to stop the census court earlier than expected.
In 2020, Trump released a memo instructing then Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to exclude “unauthorized immigrants” from census numbers. The President has no final say in that matter, but rules have never stopped Trump.
“Today’s Committee memo pulls back the curtain on this shameful conduct and shows clearly how the Trump Administration secretly tried to manipulate the census for political gain while lying to the public and Congress about their goals,” says Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, who chairs the House oversight committee and introduced the bill, in a statement. “It is clear that legislative reforms are needed to prevent any future illegal or unconstitutional efforts to interfere with the census and chip away at our democracy.”
Rep. Maloney has also introduced a bill establishing Congress has to vet any new questions to be added to the census and that the Census Bureau director cannot be fired without cause.