Voting rights advocates are raising alarm over the Trump administration's efforts to add a new question to the 2020 census, asking respondents whether or not they are U.S. citizens.
Census researchers currently testing the survey have seen "an unprecedented amount of concern about the confidentiality of census data, particularly among immigrants," according to the Huffington Post.
Census officials are already raising alarm that people aren't responding to Census testing out of fear of getting deported.— Sam Levine (@srl) January 3, 2018
DOJ now wants the Census to add a question about citizenship to the survey, which could blow up the whole thing https://t.co/rZwabz5Sjw
Critics worry that those concerns could manifest as a huge lapse in the accuracy of the 2020 census, as undocumented immigrants may refuse to fill out the survey entirely. A significant number of unanswered surveys could result in the redrawing of House districts and state legislatures in the coming decade that would reflect incorrect counts of the people and minority communities in those areas.
An inaccurate census could also lead to less federal funding for those districts.
"I can think of no action the administration could take that would be more damaging to the accuracy of the 2020 census than to add a question on citizenship," Terri Ann Lowenthal, a census expert, told the New York Times. "It would completely pull the rug out from under efforts to have everyone participate in the census as the Constitution envisions."
The census has been taken every ten years since the late 18th century, as a means of counting everyone living in the country regardless of citizenship. It has not included a question regarding citizenship since 1960, and critics are connecting the administration's push to add the section to President Donald Trump's aggressive anti-immigrant stance.
Those participating in census tests have raised "new concerns about topics like the 'Muslim ban,' discomfort 'registering' other household members by reporting their demographic characteristics, the dissolution of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) program, repeated references to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), etc." according to a memo sent to census officials in September.
Proponents of the citizenship question have tried to argue that including it would be a way to protect the voting rights of minorities, but experts on voter suppression say that creating an inaccurate census would do the exact opposite.
Adding a citizenship question to the census would not enhance voting rights, but suppress them by reducing the head count of already undercounted minority groups. (via @MichaelWines + @nytimes) https://t.co/sMLmfnfN1z— Brennan Center (@BrennanCenter) January 3, 2018
The census is a #votingrights issue. Census counts — of ALL residents — are used for #redistricting and for allocating U.S. congressional seats among the states. If communities with large immigrant populations are undercounted, democracy suffers. https://t.co/8vELdsxHKH— CampaignLegalCenter (@CampaignLegal) January 3, 2018