Census

Census Citizenship Question Pushed for by GOP Gerrymanderer

And that whole Voting Rights Act justification? Kinda the opposite, actually.

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Any fair reading of the public record since 2017 has suggested that the Trump administration, despite inconsistent protestations to the contrary (whether in front of Congress or in the courtroom), has sought to re-insert on the decennial census form in 2020 a question about citizenship status for the express political purpose of undercounting heavily Democratic areas, thereby decreasing these areas' representation in Congress.

Now comes news, via a court filing Thursday, that a recently deceased GOP gerrymandering specialist not only wrote a 2015 analysis of how Republicans would benefit if political maps were drawn based on voting-age U.S. citizenry rather than overall population, he also helped ghostwrite a 2017 Department of Justice letter to the Commerce Department (which manages the census), requesting the reinstatement of the citizenship question on the highly dubious grounds that it would improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

Thomas Hofeller, who The New York Times describes as having achieved "near-mythic status in the Republican Party as the Michelangelo of gerrymandering," died last August at age 75. His estranged daughter, Stephanie Hofeller, when sorting through dad's affairs, "came across a clear plastic bag holding four external hard drives and 18 thumb drives, backups of data on Mr. Hofeller's Toshiba laptop." In a series of implausible-sounding coincidences, she reportedly happened to mention in passing the existence of some gerrymandering-related material on those drives to a lawyer who happened to work for Common Cause, which happened to have an active lawsuit in North Carolina court about gerrymandering.

One thing led to another, and the files have now been presented to U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York, who ruled against the administration's citizenship question in January. That case has been appealed and is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling. It is unclear whether the Hofeller trove will affect the case.

The original purpose of the census, as spelled out in the Constitution, is to count the "Number of free Persons" living in each state for the purpose of apportioning seats in the House of Representatives. The post-Civil War amendments to the Constitution redefined that whole "free Persons" bit: "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."

As Matthew J. Franck has explained at National Review, "voting rights are not and never have been the relevant consideration in counting population for congressional representation. Like women in most states before the Nineteenth Amendment, and like minor children even today, the alien is counted because he is represented in Congress, even if he cannot participate in electing members of it." This has been the governing system ever since, upheld in various ways by the Supreme Court.

Republican immigration restrictionists have been chafing at that legal reality since at least the 1980s. When Sen. David Vitter (R–La.) in 2009 introduced a bill mandating that the census reinsert the citizenship question for the first time since 1950, he was explicit in his aims: "States that have large populations of illegals," Vitter complained, are being unfairly "rewarded." That view is shared by many within the Trump administration orbit, most notoriously the populist svengali Steve Bannon and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Hofeller was initially hired in 2015 to provide potential analytical ammo in Evenwel v. Abbott, a case in which two Texas voters attempted to challenge the Lone Star State's residency-based political apportionment, arguing that the political power of legal citizens was unfairly diluted by the counting of non-legal residents. (The Supreme Court decided unanimously, if narrowly, in 2016 against that argument, with Justice Samuel Alito remarking along the way that "The decennial census required by the Constitution tallies total population.")

Hofeller concluded in his study that redrawing Texas political boundaries based on voting eligibility "would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites." But such voter data was not available on a granular basis, he lamented. "Without a question on citizenship being included on the 2020 Decennial Census questionnaire," Hofeller wrote, "the use of citizen voting age population is functionally unworkable."

The New York Times picks up the timeline from there:

Roughly 16 months later, as President-elect Trump prepared to take office, Mr. Hofeller urged Mr. Trump's transition team to consider adding a citizenship question to the census, the transition official responsible for census issues, Mark Neuman, said last year in a deposition in the Manhattan census lawsuit.

Mr. Neuman testified that Mr. Hofeller told him that using citizenship data from the census to enforce the Voting Rights Act would increase Latino political representation — the opposite of what Mr. Hofeller's study had concluded months earlier.

Court records show that Mr. Neuman, a decades-long friend of Mr. Hofeller's, later became an informal adviser on census issues to Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr. By that summer, a top aide to Mr. Ross was pressing the Justice Department to say that it required detailed data from a census citizenship question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.

It's worth pausing to reflect on the brazenness here. Hofeller writes up a study showing that redistricting based on voter eligibility—which by the way is unconstitutional—would definitely help Republicans and whites while hurting Democrats and Latinos in high-immigrant states. He then complains that the best compilation of that data—the annual American Community Survey, which asks the citizenship question and is the primary information source used for enforcement of the Voting Rights Act—is not a thorough survey, but a mere sampling of around 3.5 million households nationwide. In order to produce the desired outcome for Republicans, at the expense of Latino households, he writes, you'd need the citizenship question asked by the decennial census.

The Trump administration then claims with a straight face that the primary purpose of restoring that question is to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.

While that clumsy lie was smacked down already by Judge Furman (and in these pages by Jacob Sullum), Thursday's court filing adds a new wrinkle to the mendacity. In a Hofeller document dated Aug. 30, 2017, the Voting Rights Act rationale was spelled out in a paragraph, complete with supporting court decisions. According to the Times, "That paragraph later appeared word for word in a draft letter from the Justice Department to the Census Bureau that sought a citizenship question on the 2020 census." A later letter clearly drew on Hofeller's 2015 study, the Times found.

Hofeller is not the only GOP gerrymanderer who attempted to influence Trump's census. The president's first pick for deputy director and operational executive of the Census Bureau was Thomas Brunell, author of the 2008 book, Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America. Brunell's name was later withdrawn after an outcry.

So what's wrong with the census including a citizenship question, since after all it was included in the "long form" of the questionnaire as recently as 2000? I'll turn the floor over to Jacob Sullum:

The Constitution requires an "actual enumeration" of each state's population, without regard to citizenship or immigration status, every 10 years so that representatives can be apportioned correctly. Asking about citizenship, which the main census form has not done since 1950, undermines that goal, since people may worry that the information they provide will be used against them or their relatives—a fear for which there is historical precedent, notwithstanding the government's promise of confidentiality.

Since 1960 the Census Bureau and the commerce secretary have warned that a citizenship question would aggravate the undercounting of "hard-to-count" groups, including not just unauthorized residents but people who live with them. Last January bureau staff conservatively estimated that adding the question would cause a 5 percent drop in form completion by noncitizen households.

Remarkably, Commerce Secretary Ross has stated on the record that an undercount of the one thing the census was specifically tasked with would nonetheless be worth it in return for all that crucial Voting Rights Act information. "Even if there is some impact on responses … the citizenship data provided to [the Department of Justice] will be more accurate with the question than without it," Ross wrote in a memo last year, "which is of greater importance than any adverse effect that may result from people violating their legal duty to respond."

Trump administration officials have repeatedly demonstrated that they are willing to lie in order to depress the counting of immigrant households. We should know in a matter of weeks whether they'll get away with it.

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117 responses to “Census Citizenship Question Pushed for by GOP Gerrymanderer

  1. I was surprised that citizenship hasn’t always been a question on the census. How many citizens live in the country seems like it would be a good part of the point of the whole exercise.

    1. Absolutely. People who don’t want the question are those who love illegal immigrants.

      1. “Illegal immigrants” is a racist slur. We Koch / Reason libertarians call them undocumented Americans.

        1. they do have documents though, fake ones

        2. Apparently this is what Welch wants so I am assuming as a lackey for the Koch Brothers the above statement is true. How wonderful it must be to want open borders, no country , no flag and no selfish loyalty to the Constitution. I don’t understand how Congressional Representation is drawn according to those “Free Persons” living in the area and yet you want to include people who are not . If you define “Free Persons” as the equivalent of a citizen. The truth is Libertarians need to decide that either they support the notion of sovereignty or they support anarchy. If Anarchy is your bag so be it.
          I do wonder why any Libertarian supporting open borders and anarchy would support something like the Constitution.

        3. I prefer “illegal aliens”, or at worst, “unauthorized aliens”.

          Illegal drug dealers are not “undocumented pharmacists”, after all.

          1. Actually, “undocumented pharmacists” is possibly the best description of exactly what drug dealers are.

            Even those commenters here who share your anti-immigrant bias are, for the most part, firmly against the War on Drugs which clearly you are for.

      2. Or, and you’ll have to pull your head out of your ass to understand this, people who don’t want the question are those who care about what the Constitution demands.

        1. The Constitution demands a count of all persons living in the country. It doesn’t say they can’t ask other questions.

        2. EVERY question beyond “How many people reside here?” is in excess of constitutional requirements, and carries the potential to suppress response rates. EVERY ONE.

          This would be the first time an additional question was ever barred on this basis, and to do it with a question which was, historically, part of most census’? Absurd.

          Anyway, we could resolve the issue by asking the question AND deporting: They’re not undercounted if they’ve been deported, no?

          1. Why is this even an issue?
            From NBC News
            “Federal law provides that anyone who refuses to answer or willfully neglects to answer any of the questions in connection with any census or survey shall be fined a maximum of $100, or a maximum of $500 if the person gives false information.
            In theory, noncitizens should not fear answering census questions. Surveys are mailed to addresses, rather than to specific individuals. Not including individual names on the address label is meant to protect the confidentiality of the participating households. Additionally, federal law provides immunity for persons who give answers to census questions. Information furnished cannot be “used to the detriment of the persons to whom such information relates.” Census reports may not be admitted as evidence or used in any action or proceeding, without consent.” So this really isn’t issue right?
            Take it further according to Matt’s article the question will only reduce the number of completed forms by Illegals by 5% (or about 1mil) How is this really going to impact anything? With everything else that is happening including a record number of illegals flooding the border, 22 trillion in debt with a debt to GDP ratio over 100%, $ China’s desire to supersede the USA economically and militarily, Constitutional assault from the left and right do we really worry about whether or not those who decided to ignore our immigration laws are filling out census forms?

            1. “Census reports may not be admitted as evidence or used in any action or proceeding, without consent.” So this really isn’t issue right?”

              Keep in mind that the left routinely targets people for retaliation, even if they have to violate the law to do it. So, why would they expect the right to not do the same?

      3. People who want the question asked love to have the government meddle in their lives – the enabling of which is the only purpose the data gathered by the census serves anymore.

    2. When I was young they used to run public ads on tv and radio that all aliens had to register every January. I don’t know when that went away.

      1. When Area 51 went live.

      2. Before 1971? Because I’ve never seen that.

        1. I was born in ’59, and it does sound vaguely familiar.

          See this. It really was a thing at one point.

      3. Green card holders were required to register their addresses every year until some time in the 80s. After that the requirement became reporting any change of address.

        I don’t know where things stand now because I don’t know any Green Card holders.

        I believe it is important that people understand that there are many people living in this country with Green Cards who have no intention of becoming american citizens just as there are lots of American expats living legally in foreign countries who have no intention of becoming citizens of the their new home countries.

    3. Yeah, I’m not seeing the justification for not including it. Seems very basic.

    4. Would you be surprised to know that they don’t ask you if you’ve ever been a member of the communist party? Or if you’ve ever taken up arms against the United States?

      Or that people lie – so asking the question is rather pointless in the first place?

      1. People lying is probably enough to make the question useless.

        I think it mostly comes down to my second question which is why representation is based on total population and not population of citizens. I don’t have any strong opinion on how it should be, just interested in why it is set up the way it is.

        1. Probably because travel was very difficult back then, and it was assumed that to a nearest approximation anyone who moved to a new continent was going to be a citizen there. The original text of the constitution doesn’t even bother to define citizenship because it wasn’t legalese at the time, it just meant people who were living in a place. When they wanted to specify certain types of citizens eligible to be president, it was ‘natural born citizens and citizens of the united states at the time this constitution is adopted’. Under a theory of citizenship as a special grant from the government, how would people even be citizens at the time of adoption? It only makes sense if citizenship described the people living there.

        2. I do agree with the second part – it sounds fine in theory to have someone ‘looking out’ for the interest of the non-citizens in the country.

          In practice though – you only get elected by the registered voters. So if you have 100,000 non-citizens in your district and one citizen, its still only the latter guy who gets the say and its still that guy that has to be pandered to. All this does is inflate the power of that one vote 100,000 times on a national level.

      2. Are you the actual buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form?

        Are you under indictment or information in any court for a felony, or any other crime, for which the judge could imprison you for
        more than one year

        Have you been convicted in any court of a felony, or any other crime, for which the judge could have imprisoned you for more
        than one year, even if you received a shorter sentence including probation?

        Are you a fugitive from justice?

        Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana, or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, or any other controlled
        substance?

        Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective (which includes having been adjudicated incompetent to manage your own affairs) or have you ever been committed to a mental institution?

        Have you been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions?

        Are you subject to a court order restraining you from harassing, stalking, or threatening your child or an intimate partner or child
        of such partner?

        Have you been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?

        Have you ever renounced your United States citizenship?

        Are you an alien illegally in the United States?

        Are you a nonimmigrant alien?

    5. Use the text, Luke.
      “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.”

      Notice that little bit about “Indians” not taxed? That’s because those who are being taxed are to be represented by those doing the taxing. The Founders were a bit sensitive about taxation without representation.

      1. History has taught us they should have been just as antsy about representation without taxation. Because it sets up really bad incentives as to spending levels.

        1. I could support “one tax dollar paid, one vote”.

      2. “Indians not taxed” referred to members of tribes that counted legally as sovereign nations, even if they resided on lands that were claimed by the US. They weren’t US citizens, and in most cases it was impractical to collect taxes from them (or conduct a census), because they were either nomadic or lived in regions too remote from any government office.

    6. > seems like it would be a good part of the point of the whole exercise.

      The point of the exercise is determine representation, not citizenship. It’s about the number of people living in a district, not the number of Voters, or Rotarians, or Kiwanans. Merely the number of people. And like it or not legal residents with green cards are … legal! And get represented in Congress. They can’t vote, but they have representation.

      Now maybe you don’t like that, but so what? The Constitution is the Constitution, and it takes more than a tweet to change that.

      1. Then it should not be about number of blacks and whites in a district either. Packing districts to create majority-minority voting blocs is ALSO gerrymandering. I see no problem with asking about citizenship, but could just as easily be happy with having nothing more than “How many people live here?” Then the Census data would be useful for not much else except apportionment…it couldn’t be used to pack districts to increase minority counts, for instance.

      2. I’m not saying I like it or I don’t. Just interested in why it is the way it is. So “because the Constitutions says so” doesn’t answer my question.

  2. I’ve also often wondered why in the Constitution representation is apportioned by total population and not population of citizens. Or even number of eligible voters. Is it just too hard to accurately count citizens?

    1. I think originally it was so that the Southern states could count 3/5 of slaves toward their total for determining number of Representatives.

      1. So not having a citizenship question on the census is a legacy of slavery!! Given the righteous Progressive hatred of anything Southern or slavery related, seems they would be all in favor of making sure that all minority citizens are recognized.

      2. You have it backward. Slaves were previously not citizens but counted 3/5. The post-Civil War amendments retained the persons (rather than citizens) standard but required all persons count equally.

        1. 3/5ths was a reduction, non-slaves counted as 5/5ths by default.

          The abolitionists would have preferred 0/5ths, the slave owners would have preferred 5/5ths, which is why 3/5ths is referred to as a “compromise”. It reduced the congressional power of slave states, but not enough to prompt them to refuse to ratify the Constitution.

      3. The Northern states didn’t want slaves to be counted at all, lest the Southern states get more representation than the number of free men would give them.

        In this analogy, California is the “slave state” wanting all the illegals to be counted; those who may not want illegals to be counted would be the evil Northern states.

        Maybe we could count illegals at 3/5 for apportionment?

    2. Having non-voting population that counts for representation purposes is really a win/win for a state. And at the time the Constitution was written, that issue chiefly revolved around slaves, and was first dealt with via the 3/5 compromise, and later by the 13th Amendment. The broader question of counting non-citizens wasn’t really an issue until illegal immigration became significant.

      1. You’re forgetting the women and children. They couldn’t vote either. Children still can’t.

        1. They were still citizens, slaves were not

          And FWIW, the Constitution actually defines the count as “whole number of free persons” and “three-fifths of all other persons”

          1. While the Taney Court asserted that slaves weren’t citizens, this was not, IIRC, otherwise established. Taney just didn’t like the implications of their being citizens.

            1. Of course some of those implications would mean none of us are citizens anymore lol

            2. The counterfactual assertion by the Taney court wasn’t that slaves weren’t citizens, it was that _free_ Negroes were not citizens.

      2. There are legal aliens, you know. People who are not citizens but allowed to be reside here. Legally. Trying to make this issue out to be just about citizens and illegals is bullshit.

        Once upon a time the Republican right was adamant in saying they were against illegal immigration but not against legal immigration. But now you turds can’t be bothered to remember that legal immigrants even exist.

        1. Well the whole argument is that the citizenship question would prompt people to not respond to the census, resulting in an undercount. What reason would a legal alien have to not answer the citizenship question? It seems like the government would have a legitimate interest in having a count of both citizens and resident aliens

          1. I believe you are right. There is nothing intrinsic in the question of citizenship that is incriminating. After all there are thousands, if not millions, of legal immigrants who are not citizens either because they are not yet eligible for naturalization or because the have no intention of becoming citizens. The Census Bureau has no way of knowing if a “NO” on the citizenship question has any bearing on the legal status of the respondent.

            That said, I find that the Census has become increasingly intrusive. Much of the information it seeks is legitimate statistical data with real information on the general “health” of the “body politic and economic” but much of it seems to be fraught with hazard in that much of the data could be used by federal agencies for nefarious purposes.

    3. If you only count the citizens, then only the citizens count!

    4. Because the government governs all the people, not just the voters.

      1. If the government really governed the illegals, they’d be somewhere else. The only reason they’re here in the first place is that they’re refusing to be governed.

        1. And if the government really governed the legal residents they would all be in prison. We’re all breaking some federal law at some point.

  3. That dude’s face is what I imagine what you see looking under OBL’s skirt.
    Barf.

    1. He’s a dead ringer for the lawyer that The Bros send to Reason HQ whenever a writer gets out of line.

    2. Just because I’m non-binary, doesn’t mean I wear a skirt.

      1. Ok, kilt, then.

      2. There are only 10 kinds of people in this world, OBL

        Those that understand binary, and those that don’t

        1. What about the other E kinds of people?

          1. Careful, you’ll hex us!

  4. Are those here on tourist visas counted? How about foreigners here for an extended business trip? I’d guess they aren’t because they don’t live in the United States and are citizens of another country. Immigrants who have completed documentation processes are presumed to be wanting to live here permanently. Undocumented immigrants are temporarily here until documented or deported.
    They should not be counted in the census.

    1. You actually raise interesting points. The two classes you raise are not supposed to be included in the census.

      But it is interesting, how does the census deal with Canadians who have winter homes in Florida or Arizona. They live here “permanently” just long enough that they don’t lose eligibility for the welfare benefits the get from “home” but long enough that they could invariably be caught as “residents” in communities in which they live.

      1. It’s not only Canadians. The census bureau also has to deal with (for example) Michigan residents who go to Florida for the winter, including many that own a house in each state. The main census push is in the winter of years ending in zero, because they are attempting to count everyone on January 1. So the census workers in Michigan would visit a lot of houses and mark them as no one home, which left them as question marks to be resolved later. In Florida, they would visit houses, hotels, resorts, etc., and collect census forms from the snowbirds ,with their permanent residence addresses. In theory, the data with Michigan addresses was transmitted to Michigan, where it would be matched up with the “no one home” addresses to close the case for most of them. However, when I worked for the census in 1990, something was wrong. There were areas where half the residences were still question marks in June. For most of them, someone was living there, and they had filled out forms for that address in Florida. So I spent a lot of time persuading people to fill out a second form, and hoped that if the Florida forms ever showed up, the office would be able to eliminate the duplicates.

        Incidentally, this is one reason the census wants the names and ages of everyone in your family. With people traveling and moving all the time (or camping out in an alley – that’s not much of a problem for the census workers in Michigan who collect forms in January, but it must be quite a challenge to count the homeless in warmer areas), they have to sometimes seek to get duplicate forms so they know they didn’t miss anyone. Name + address + birthdate is a unique identifier that they can use to then eliminate the duplicates and count everyone just once.

  5. All I want to know is how the number of toilets in my house affects proportional representation, by whatever method defined. Somehow asking me how many illegal Mexicans I got locked in my basement is shockingly intrusive but everybody’s on board with the vital necessity of knowing where they take a dump?

    1. You don’t have illegal Mexican toilets? I hear they are in demand in California.

    2. Some of us oppose both those questions.

      1. But notably not Matt Welch. Your one sentence is a better argument than Welch makes in his whole article.

  6. As the Democrats are encouraging breaking the law to get as many illegals in the country and voting, I really ain’t gonna cry when the GOP fights back.

    1. Every time a cranky old right-wing bigot is replaced by a younger, better American makes America great.

      1. I reproduced 8 cranky, freedom loving, bigot hating libertarians.

        Considering you’re still living in mama’s basement …

        1. I’m not sure what Kirkland is expecting – even accepting that all of us are cranky old men who will die soon, ‘Young Americans’ aren’t breeding as fast and they’re supporting a political movement that is importing people from distinctly *non-Progressive* societies.

          Does he think the Muslim and Christian Arabs living in Michigan are going to vote for Hillary? For LGBT rights? For widespread post-birth abortion access?

  7. OT – It’s almost as if Georgia’s lavish favoritism to large corporations does’t elicit any gratitude:

    “The so-called “heartbeat bill” has caused a furious backlash in Hollywood and led to calls for a boycott.

    “Georgia makes billions of dollars from film and television productions….

    “Georgia – which offers up to 30% tax breaks – has become a magnet for film and TV productions, employing more than 90,000 people.”

    https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-48457401

    (feel free to insert jokes about “abortion” and “pulling out”)

    1. Big business there. Been building up for years. A bunch of Marvel films, Walking Dead, Stranger Things, are some of the more well known.

      Disney and Netflix have both said something about the abortion bill.

      I suppose the studios are concerned about backlash in their own pool of talent. Hollywood types are very liberal and some actors or other production types might refuse to work there. You know how these folks get.

      1. I watched their movies about good guys fighting a purple genocidal monster – but now, maybe they think Thanos was the good guy all along.

        1. The saddest news for me was that Christina (“Kelly Bundy”) Applegate also supports a boycott of Georgia.

      2. Disney doesn’t seem to have any moral qualms about filming in Jordan or the United Arab Emirates, where abortion is out-and-out illegal.

    2. I loved the response: Paraphrasing, “If your actresses can’t work for a month without needing an abortion, you’re not the sort of company we want here in Georgia.”

      I thought it really nailed it.

  8. “In a series of implausible-sounding coincidences, “

    Let’s have some forensic testing done on those files and see when they were really created.

  9. What is amazing is that the people who claim to be “originalist” and “textualist” with regard to the Constitution, seem to drop those ideas when it conflicts with their interest. If the Constitution says count everyone then do that. Certainly the citizenship question is acceptable for the long form to characterize the country. But for representation stick with the Constitution.

    1. Quote the part of the Constitution that says an invading army can set up shop and that we must give them representation regardless of whether we want them here or not.

      1. It doesn’t say that. But then again, we don’t have an invading armor setting up shop. So it’s a moot point.

        1. We don’t have an invading army, but the invading army wasn’t the point. The point was that there is no Constitutional right to migrate and hijack our country via representation. If we want to remove foreign aliens, we have the right.

          Think about how absurd it sounds to give an opposing force power over our lives and then ask yourself why non-citizens should have that ability. Also consider the status quo:

          1. Congress and state governments continues to import millions of illegal aliens
          2. Attempts by the executive branch to maintain our borders have been repeatedly assaulted by the courts even though the President has an explicit Constitutional ability to enforce immigration laws that Congress passes.
          3. We have no recourse because the courts are afraid to go after treasonous sanctuary municipalities and Congress can’t get the majority it needs because Congressional representation is currently assigned by population including illegal aliens.

          1. If an invading army isn’t the point then why bring it up. The Constitution says nothing about citizenship. It calls for a count of all “free persons”. See Section 1 Part 2. My point stands if you are an originalist or textualist then a citizenship question on the count is not valid. The citizenship question is valid on the long form which is not in the constitution and is designed to characterize the country for informational purposes.

  10. What’s with the photo accompanying this article? Is the actor who played the father on That 70s Show somehow related to this?

    1. Haha, I thought it was Red Forman as well.

      Eric: Uh, well, I believe that everyone’s political opinion is valid and worth hearing.

      Red: Well, that’s, that’s perfect Eric. Use that line when you’re up for Miss America.

  11. Trump is now threatening Mexico with a tariff on June 10 if they don’t do more to stop illegal immigration.

    Um, yeah, it’s a terrible idea.

  12. More outrage over a simple question. About which you can lie. But has no penalties. And few illegals will bother to answer.

    But reason seems to love unelected special counsels who have no constitutional standing. Go figure.

    1. Reason doesn’t love, because only people can love. Reason is a magazine and a website.

      1. Correction: people and dogs.

  13. Of all of the libertarian views I agree with, illegal immigration I cannot. Citizens vs non-citizens is an obvious question.

    1. Why? When nothing in the Constitution says anything about counting citizens, why do you think it’s in any way libertarian to count citizens?

      1. What isn’t libertarian about requiring government permission to be counted as a human being?

    2. I totally agree, illegal immigration is an atrocity! We must repeal all the immigration laws at once, then no immigrant will be illegal!

  14. “Census Citizenship Question Pushed for by GOP Gerrymanderer”

    WrongThinkers want a citizenship question on the Census, therefore it is now unconstitutional despite being part of the census from 1870 to 2000.

    The doc linked has charts for common questions on the census starting at page 121.
    The census has asked place of birth and citizenship from 1870 to 2000.
    Parents place of birth from 1870 to 1970.
    https://goo.gl/woJQaF

  15. I really don’t see the problem here. The census already asks personal questions that could potentially lead to discrimination such as race and religion. Personally I would like to see the census abolished, but arguing on ostensibly libertarian grounds that it *should* exist, but somehow *this* question is beyond the pale seems like some class ‘A’ splitting hairs.

    1. You don’t see the problem adding another personal question? Or is it that you don’t have a problem adding this particular question and are using the existence of the others to justify it?

      In my experience, when people demand a ‘level playing field’, they never want their end raised, only the other end lowered down to their level.

      1. The point obviously is that it is already established precedent that it’s legal to ask additional questions that might suppress response rates. It has NEVER, to my knowledge, been held to be illegal for the Census to ask a question.

        To pick this line in the sand seems rather dubious, and based on another motive besides concern about accuracy.

      2. Huh? I just said I want to abolish the census. But that’s not what Welch wants; his argument isn’t that the existing census questions are bad, and adding another one is also bad. His argument is that existing census questions are good, but adding this one would be bad… I just don’t see it.

        And by the way, in addition to wanting the census abolished, I’m in favor of open boarders, but if a census is going to exist at all, asking about citizenship seems quite reasonable to me, certainly more reasonable than asking about race, religion, or college attainment. If the problem with the question is that it strikes fear into the hearts of people who don’t have a government permission slip to live (how ANY ‘libertarian’ is against open boarders, I’ll never understand) the correct response seems to me to be fix the immigration laws.

  16. It seems to me there’s a simple solution:

    1. Ask the question.
    2. If it does suppress the count, deport enough illegal aliens to compensate.

    Problem solved!

  17. Does not asking for citizenship status count as Democratic gerrymandering? Just tally the number of residents and be done with it. One question is the only thing the Constitution demands on the topic. (Well, maybe two if you’re asking about Indians.)

  18. “for the express political purpose of undercounting heavily Democratic areas, thereby decreasing these areas’ representation in Congress.”
    Alternatively, could it not be said that Democrats and Welch would like to overcount heavily democratic areas for the purpose of increasing the power of Progressives? The framing and partisan slant is noteworthy

    1. The only people who would talk about here are in the comments section

    2. Pretty much this.

  19. The Spanish speaking Central and South American Indians streaming over our borders without permission are “Indians not taxed”

    Therefore they are excluded from the census.

    1. They may possibly count as Indians, but they are indeed taxed. If they are legal residents they have to pay taxes. If they are illegal residents they STILL have to pay taxes. No one gets out of paying taxes. Except certain Indians.

  20. The assumption here is that illegal immigrants, who have already broken laws and likely lied in order to do it are, suddenly, going to be scrupulous about answering the citizenship question honestly and will refuse to fill out the form.

    This seems wrong.

    1. It does seem likely that illegal immigrants will try to avoid being listed on a government form AT ALL. But that will be true whether or not there is a citizenship question.

      So what do they do about the census taker knocking on the door? If you just hide and don’t answer the door, the census taker has to come back several times. It’s intended to be annoying. We would ask the neighbors about the houses that never answered, and if they knew the house was vacant on Jan 1, and not just because the residents had flown south for the winter, that settled it. But if they thought someone was living there, we had to keep trying until August before we could finally get a count from the neighbors and close the case.

      Or for a rental, you could try to contact the owners, but that’s good mainly for vacant or not. In the case of a poor Hispanic family, I wouldn’t expect them to tell the landlord about all the cousins they cram into their house…

      I think that illegals often live in a household with some legal residents or citizens. So they have the adult citizen or green-card holder fill out the form and meet the census taker. The question is whether this person is going to list the others, and I suspect that a citizenship question is going to make it more likely for them to omit both illegal and legal non-citizens. And the census taker cannot determine how many of the dozen children running through the house live there, or are neighbors.

  21. Citizenship must be tested because like many affirmative policies, helping one group of people means hurting another. You can’t give non-citizens representation without also removing representation from citizens. As is, not testing citizenship has been a transfer of representation from smaller, Midwestern states to sanctuary states.

    https://cis.org/Impact-NonCitizens-Congressional-Apportionment

    This is an old study so the number of seats lost is most likely larger, but personally, I consider any sanctuary jurisdiction to be openly committing treason by conspiring with enemy states for their own benefit at the cost of the nation.

    1. The constitution requires giving representation to all residents, citizen or not. There were exceptions for slaves and “wild” Indians, but no one still falls within these categories. The only people not counted for apportioning Congressional, state, and local districts are foreign diplomats (they aren’t residents because the ground under their feet is considered foreign territory) and travelers with a residence elsewhere. (If you are a citizen and transient without a permanent address, wherever you happen to be on Jan 1 is your residence for census and apportionment purposes.) So the citizenship question is irrelevant to apportionment.

      If you want to change that, campaign for an amendment. I’d support an amendment to only count citizens for apportionment purposes, but I’d prefer one that only counted registered voters, _and_ required election officials to confirm those registered voters were citizens living in the district. That’s simple enough to implement; require the states to issue drivers licenses and free state ID for non-drivers, with a permanent address and a checkmark for citizenship, and require checking that ID.

  22. Honest question: If you can’t ask about citizenship, what IS the nature of a “legal” census question?

    Judging by Article 1, Section 2, it can only consist of three items (and a sub-item):

    – Are you a “free person?” (Effectively obsolete since the abolition of slavery, though I would assume it’s still permissible to ask.)

    – What state do you live in?

    – Are you an Indian? And if yes, are you taxed?

    If the courts allow ANY additional questions, then they have to explain the discrepancy between all the other extraneous questions that ARE valid and the question of citizenship.

  23. So is this the only point that makes most Democrats into Constitutional fundamentalists?

    1. No, there are a few other topics that help them gain and keep power…

      Principle vs principal and all that…

    2. This is indeed the point where all the Republicans tear up the Constitution and become feelz-of-the-moment anti-textualists.

  24. Meh. If illegals don’t want to answer the census because it asks about their citizenship (they CAN answer No to the question), so be it. Green card holders have nothing to fear by answering No, so why should they be put off? If any American citizen of any ethnicity is offended by being asked the question, screw them.

    There are plenty of valid demographic reasons for knowing how many residents are citizens, how many are legal non-citizens, and how many are illegal aliens present in the country. Just as there are for asking about race, sex, income, etc.

  25. Given the Republican complaints about nosy questions on the census in 2000 and 2010, with congresscritters suggesting that people refuse to answer, I have very limited sympathy to both sides here.

  26. “If it helps Republican gain government power, I’m fer it!”

    –90% of the libertarians here, I bet

    1. If there was a way to determine how many libertarians actually post here I take that money, about a grand’s worth.

      Lacking that, here,s the deal, how ’bout your team stops asking all of the other intrusive questions on the census form in exchange for no questions about citizenship status?

      How about sending out a census form with the questions, “Your name? Number of persons in your household who are full time residents?

      It was your team who first stated to want answers to irrelevant questions. How about you stop wanting information for your social engineering purposes?

      1. It’s for data purposes. I realize you people are allergic to data, what with them being so inconvenient for the policies you want so hard to be productive, but aren’t.

        I’m for more data rather than less, because it makes for better-informed policy. But this particular question, as is spelled out in plain English on evil, dead Republican hard drives, is meant specifically, and only, to suppress the true count and give the Republican party yet another unfair advantage in representational distribution.

        And, may I add, fuck Republicans and their evil shit.

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