Editorial: Should the Census Include Everyone?

A recent controversial move was made by the Department of Commerce to include a citizenship question for the upcoming census in 2020. Twelve states have threatened that they will sue to block the Trump Administration from making this change.

The lawsuits against the administration argue that the citizenship question will result in a lower census count, according to an article in The New York Times. Among the states was Massachusetts, where Attorney General Maura Healey said this move will contradict the census’s purpose of counting everyone.

“This is a blatant and illegal attempt by the Trump administration to undermine that goal, which will result in an undercount of the population and threaten federal funding for our state and cities,” Healey said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders counter-argued the states’ concerns, stating, “This is a question that’s been included in every census since 1965, with the exception of 2010, when it was removed.”

National Public Radio fact checked Sanders’ statement, determining that a question regarding citizenship was not sent to everyone in the United States since 1950.

“In 1970, the Census Bureau began sending around two questionnaires: a short-form questionnaire to gather basic population information and a long form that asked detailed questions,” the article said. “Starting in 1970, questions about citizenship were included in the long-form questionnaire but not the short form.”

According to NPR, only one in six households received the long-form survey.

The addition of this question would no doubt dissuade immigrants in the U.S. from filling out the survey. The New York Times article stated that this would even be the case for legal immigrants.

“Critics accused the administration of adding the question to reduce the population count in the predominantly Democratic areas where more immigrants reside, in advance of state and national redistricting in 2021,” the article said.

Intentions aside, it cannot be denied that this question will impact the census data. The population count in states where immigration is heavy will be inaccurate, which has the potential to affect federal funding and state representation.

With a dozen states, and potentially more, sharing a common concern and threatening with lawsuits, it would be wise to rethink this last minute decision.