It is an interesting question, worthy of some discussion because of the consequences of how the Census defines population swings.
When the census is complete, the information will be used to reapportion the congressional districts. That means some states will get more, others will get less: both seats in Congress and power on the national stage. So the true purpose of the census, from a political view, is to reapportion power.
The Census had a humble start for the purpose of apportioning the seats in the House of Representatives and ensure that the people were equally represented in Congress: In Article 1, Section 2, the Constitution includes the phrase:
“[An] Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” The first census was in 1790.
Today, under Titles 13 and 26 of the U.S. Code, we have a Bureau of the Census, led by a Director of the Census appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. Those positions are both appointed by the President, approved by Congress. That means that Partisan Politics can play a key role in who is nominated. The results of the census will determine not just how many representatives are alloted to each state, but, they also determine the allocation of some $400 Billion in funds given to states for various Federally funded programs. That means there is a lot of power in these two positions.
If you were a President with a willing Congress controlled by your party, would you not appoint both a Secretary of Commerce and a Director of the Census who were highly partisan to work on your behalf? Well, that is what Mr. Obama has done. Can’t blame him. It is the politically astute thing to do. And then, it would make sense to have an EXTREMELY partisan group hired to assist with taking the census. He has done that to by having the Bureau of the Census choose ACORN for a huge contract to do much of the inner city publicity and “get out the count” work. Fortunately, under the weight of public pressure, that contract was cancelled.
In spite of the fact that ACORN is no longer officially involved in the count, do you think there is a chance that inner city counts (read Democrats) will be highly inflated? I do.
I also find it interesting that the Bureau of the Census estimated that this census will cost $13.7 to $14.5 Billion dollars to conduct. The GAO in reviewing the Census Bureau’s numbers found them to be grossly inaccurate and specifically understated. The GAO thinks the cost is understated by at least $2 to $3 Billion. This does not include the $3 Billion spent in 2007 and 2008 on a handheld computer system that was custom designed to take the census. It failed and was scrapped. Even if you use the Census Bureau’s low number of $13.7 Billion (and don’t add the $3 B. wasted on the handhelds), that works out to about $45 per head. I could be wrong, but it is my guess that if a contract were offered in each state offering to pay $25 per head (with a $50 penalty for over-counted heads), there would be lots of takers. Aside from saving us over $6 Billion, I tend to believe it would be less influenced by who appoints the Director.
I believe this is an opportunity for grand larceny on a very large scale. I think it would be very hard to calculate just how big a power grab a skewed census would be. Big enough that we should be watching this closely and there should be much more public interest and scrutiny of the process.