A variety of data and civil rights groups say the federal government is underfunding the Census process and may leave large chunks of the population out of the process with the addition of a citizenship question.
On Monday night, the Commerce Department—agreeing to a Trump administration request—announced plans to reinstate a citizenship question in the 2020 Census.
While just one question, it’s one that some say could discourage many people from taking part in the decennial survey. Already, a number of states have pledged to sue the administration over adding the question, which they argue will lead to an undercounting of residents, and as a result, harm federal funding in certain states.
Associations, likewise, have raised concerns with the question, added at the behest of the Justice Department. The Insight Association, which represents the marketing-research and data-analytics community, spoke out against the move this week, with CEO David Almy pointing out that cooperation is everything when it comes to a census.
“To ensure accuracy, the census requires the highest possible representation of our population. Every subsequent survey and study that intends to be statistically representative of the U.S. population will be built on decennial data, and any inaccuracies will be felt for at least a decade,” Almy said in a news release on the association’s website.
Also speaking out were a number of civil rights groups. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called the memo by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “a respectable label on a bottle filled with Trump’s poisonous partisan agenda.”
Arturo Vargas, the executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, emphasized that the policy change would most negatively affect minorities, especially Latinos.
“The stakes are too high for a failed 2020 Census, and we will not sit idly by as those with [malicious] intentions seek to thwart a fair and accurate count of immigrants, Latinos and all Americans,” Vargas stated. “The fight has just begun, and we will not stop until we have exhausted all avenues to provide the Census Bureau with the fix and certainty it needs to tackle its most ambitious task yet, counting the largest American population in history.”
The NAACP on Wednesday also announced it was planning to sue, and it broadened its concerns to highlight worries about the overall process, which it says would lead the federal government to “substantially undercount African Americans and other people of color in communities throughout the United States, causing inequalities in political representation and deficiencies in federal funding of those communities.” The civil rights group was joined by Prince George’s County, Maryland, located just outside of Washington, DC.
Concerns about a lack of preparation have increased in recent years, especially due to budget shortfalls. Nonprofits have pledged to assist in the process—though there may be limits to what those nonprofits can do.