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.