Exclusive: The 2010 Census, the Constitution and You
by THE EDITORS
January 25, 2010
The year 2010 is another Census year, and many Americans are concerned about the apparent politicization of a process that has been with us since our Constitution was first written.
The director of the Census Bureau will now report directly to “White House senior management” instead of to the Commerce Secretary. “Senior management” likely means Rahm Emanuel, an Obama political crony who is currently serving as White House Chief of Staff. The move was part of what prompted Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) to withdraw as commerce secretary nominee. According to the Wall Street Journal,
Mr. Gregg also cited issues involving the Census Bureau. That appeared to be a reference to reports that the White House, responding to concerns from black and Hispanic lawmakers, would be highly involved in the political decisions surrounding the decennial count. The parties have battled for years over how to carry out the survey, with Democrats tending to favor methods that would increase the number of minorities, giving them greater clout in redrawing the congressional map. Mr. Gregg has been critical of those approaches.
Initially, the community organizing group ACORN was to play a large role in conducting the Census, but the Census Bureau severed all ties with the group after a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute used hidden-camera footage to show ACORN employees advising them on how to skirt the law.
"Over the last several months, through ongoing communication with our regional offices, it is clear that ACORN's affiliation with the 2010 Census promotion has caused sufficient concern in the general public, has indeed become a distraction from our mission, and may even become a discouragement to public cooperation, negatively impacting 2010 Census efforts," read a letter from Census Director Robert M. Groves to the president of ACORN.
"Unfortunately, we no longer have confidence that our national partnership agreement is being effectively managed through your many local offices. For the reasons stated, we therefore have decided to terminate the partnership," the letter said.
Privacy advocates are also concerned that, as part of preparation for the census, GPS coordinates for every front door in the nation were collected. What happened to good old fashioned maps?
Also somewhat telling about the political machinations behind this year’s census is the fact that there is no question asking if the residents of a home are either citizens or legal residents. According to the Washington Times,
It appears that this is the first census to omit this inquiry. Question 13 of the 2000 census form specifically asked the following:
Is this person a CITIZEN of the United States?
-Yes, born in the United States-->Skip to 15a
-Yes, born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Northern Marianas
-Yes, born abroad of American parent or parents
-Yes, a U.S. citizen by naturalization
-No, not a citizen of the United States
Meanwhile, they want to know your ethnicity (with Hispanics getting their very own section), age and sex. And if you were lucky enough to receive an American Community Survey, it has questions like whether you currently have a job, what cars you own, how old your home is, how many bedrooms it has, how many toilets are in it and how much you pay for fuel to heat it.
But are you a citizen who pays taxes and is eligible to vote? Eh, not important.
Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN) says she refuses to answer any questions on the census other than the first one, which asks how many people live in the home, citing concerns about “very intricate” and “very personal” questions. Census spokeswoman Shelly Lowe says that anyone over the age of 18 who does not answer all of the questions could face a $5,000 fine.
But is that constitutional?
Article 1, Section 2 of our Constitution deals with the enumeration (counting) of citizens, which happens for the purpose of determining how many House representatives each state receives:
The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.
That’s it. It says nothing about checking off a box with your ethnicity, age, or whether your home has three or four bedrooms.
If you don’t have a problem answering all of those questions that have nothing to do with how many people live in your congressional district, start checking off boxes. But if you feel the Census questions are too inquisitive, we've heard some people are doing this: answering the first question about how many people live in the home and then taping a copy of Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution to the bottom of the form.
And if you’re worried that you might be targeted to pay that $5,000 fine, consider that by the time the red tape gets unsnarled, you’ll probably be dead.