Thursday, November 5, 2009

Census shenanigans blocked

The Washington Post reports

Senate Democrats Thursday blocked a GOP attempt to require next year's census forms to ask people whether they are U.S. citizens.

The proposal by Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter was aimed at excluding immigrants from the population totals that are used to figure the number of congressional representatives for each state. Critics said Vitter's plan would discourage immigrants from responding to the census and would be hugely expensive. They also said that it's long been settled law that the apportionment of congressional seats is determined by the number of people living in each state, regardless of whether they are citizens. A separate survey already collects the data.
The article quotes Sen. Vitter,
"The current plan is to reapportion House seats using that overall number, citizens and noncitizens ... I think that's wrong. I think that's contrary to the whole intent of the Constitution and the establishment of Congress as a democratic institution to represent citizens."
Instead of "thinking" that he knows what the Constitution says, Sen. Vitter should actually read the document, specifically the 14th Amendment, which states
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.
The word "persons" is purposeful. Other language in the 14th Amendment, including language that describes how representatives and electors may be proportioned in other ways, explicitly mentions citizens.

The decennial census is due to go out early next year. Sen. Vitter's proposal would have increased the cost of the count, delayed the census, and reduced compliance (further raising costs). Moreover, citizenship information is already asked of 3 million households from all 50 states and DC each year (including census years) as part of the American Community Survey (ACS).

Although the proposal was blocked, Sen. Vitter had the support of 38 other Republican senators who were equally willing to waste money and monkey with the decennial census.


Anonymous said...

Now on to the shennanigans the Obama administration will attempt with their move of the administration of the census. Any opinion on that?

jon said...

Dave, If you are really "applying rationality", do you actually believe that the framers of the constitution meant for non-citizens to be counted in the census? (regardless of the use of the word persons) Do you actually believe that non-citizens should be included to apportion the repesentatives of the Congress? What happened to one man(or woman) one vote? Inclusion of aliens in the census without requiring them to reveal their status dilutes the rights of citizens. With all the billions wasted by the self serving pols why not spend a few bucks to get it right?

Dave Ribar said...


Actually, this is something that we can be reasonably sure that the framers intended, as the original language from the Constitution (Article 1, section 2) is explicit in distinguishing between citizens, "free persons," Indians, and "all other persons."

The framers intent, however, is irrelevant because the original language (including the noxious 3/5s of other persons) was replaced by the 14th amendment.

Representation is not based on voters (unless a substantial fraction of voters' rights have been suspended). At the time of the 14th amendment, women couldn't vote, nor could anyone under age 21. People under age 18 still can't vote but are included for purposes of representation.

In terms of "getting it right," we get very reliable information on citizenship from the American Community Survey. The ACS is used to allocate funds. Given that we already collect this information, what's the purpose of collecting it again.

Worse, what's the purpose of disrupting the decennial census? The census isn't like a backyard play that you put on overnight. The procedures for the census have literally been years in the making. At this point most of the several hundred million forms have already been printed. For the census to take place, those forms must go out in just a few months. We're now going to revisit what goes on them? C'mon.