The Pacific Index

Proposed census question spark controversy

Megan Garside

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The United States census shapes voting districts across all states. It determines where residents place their funding and what areas need special attention, making it critical to be as accurate as possible.

However this accuracy has recently been threatened. Early February, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross insisted the U.S. Census Bureau add a new question to the 2020 questionnaire asking respondents of their citizenship status.

When his request was blocked by a federal judge in the days following, Ross explained he had got the idea from the Justice Department, intending to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Though the matter lead to a mass of legal challenges and misconduct.

Further inspection revealed that this was not Ross’s own idea. He had been persuaded to make the request by Steve Bannon and adviser Kris Kobach, and later discussed the topic with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Judge Richard Seeborg blocked the request on the grounds that Ross had ignored federal law and denied any further justification to the case. The question has not been present on the census since 1950 and the reinstatement of it could possibly weaponize it.

According to the district judge, the question would have violated public trust and would have meant thousands if not millions would have gone unaccounted for, therefore leaving the census hindered and pointless.

During recent years, less and less people have been taking part in the census, and with this request, Bureau officials feared that the citizenship question could cause immigrants not to fill out the questionnaire. It was believed that undocumented immigrants would be too afraid of being deported.

Because the census is becoming more unpopular each passing year, it is more important than ever that the questionnaire is as accurate as possible. With funding at a low point, where money is placed makes a huge difference.

If minorities and immigrants feel that they cannot take part in the census, it will be inaccurate and will not benefit the people who really need it.

The decision to include the question or not will ultimately be up to the Supreme Court.

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Proposed census question spark controversy