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Potential Trump Appointment To Census Bureau Raising Alarms

by Countable | 11.21.17

What’s the story?

The census, which counts the U.S. population every ten years, is an essential foundation of American democracy. The next count is in 2020 and the Census Bureau is gearing up, but has been without a Census Director since the end of June.

The administration is not putting forth a nomination for Bureau Director, a position which requires Senate confirmation, but they are reported by Politico to be contemplating appointing a Texas professor with no Bureau experience and a history of support for redistricting plans that promote partisanship to be deputy director.

The deputy director is the top operational position at the Bureau, and will have administrative control over the decennial count.

Why does it matter?

The decennial census count is the foundation for all state and federal redistricting plans. States will lose or gain seats in the House of Representatives based on the count.

Per Politico, "Subtle bureaucratic choices in the wording and administration of the census can have huge consequences for who is counted, and how it shifts American voting districts."

Thomas Brunell, the Texas professor being considered for the deputy director job, has a history of repeatedly testifying to Congress in support of GOP redistricting plans. He authored a 2008 book entitled "Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America."

According to sources, the administration was considering nominating Brunell for the director position, but received pushback from Capitol Hill and declined to advance the nomination. Because the deputy director position is a political appointment, the Senate cannot block the hire.

Concerns about the Census Bureau being underfunded have circulated throughout the year, with no resolution in sight. Test runs for the 2020 census are currently being conducted, but the Bureau had to cancel components of the tests due to limited funding. The agency has also delayed its regular economic census by six months due to funding shortages.

Policy advocates focused on the Census are concerned the appointment of Brunell would exacerbate problems by adding politicization to the mix, threatening the veracity of the count. The effects could ripple out beyond even redistricting, to the fate of hundreds of billions of dollars in annual federal funds distribution.

What do you think?

Are you concerned about the Census? Do you think it’s important for the agency to remain nonpartisan?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: U.S. Census Bureau via Flickr / Creative Commons)

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