H.R.732 - 2020 Census IDEA Act

Photo of Congress member Representative Carolyn Maloney

To amend title 13, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Commerce to provide advance notice to Congress before changing any questions on the decennial census, and for other purposes.

You might favor this bill if:
►  You believe that the 2020 Census should not have any last minute changes unless adequately researched, tested, and studied before census day. Since the Census redraws congressional district maps, determines the number of House members each state gets, and determines the number of electoral votes each state receives, the Census should be changed with ample time and with congressional oversight.

You might oppose this bill if:
►  You believe that the 2020 Census should be able to be changed and edited at any time by any political party. The redistribution of district maps, State House members, and electoral votes should be determined by the number of Citizens in the country and not by its residents.
Introduced House Senate President Law

The 2020 Census IDEA Act would strengthen congressional oversight over the census operational plan and ensure that every decennial census is adequately researched, tested, and studied before census day.

The legislation would mandate a three-year process to any question proposed to be added in any Census, therefore blocking the Trump's administration attempt to add a citizenship question from appearing on the 2020 Census.

More specifically, the proposed legislation would:
- prohibit last minute changes to the census without proper research;
- require biannual reports to Congress on the status of research and testing of Census Bureau’s operational plan; and
- mandate the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to certify that subjects, information, and questions on the decennial have been sufficiently researched and tested before the census can begin.

On March 26, 2018, the Department of Commerce announced that the Census Bureau will include a question regarding citizenship status on the 2020 Census.

According to former Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt, adding a citizenship question “will drive the response rate down enormously,” and increase the undercounting of both citizens and non-citizens in the decennial census. In addition to reducing the accuracy of the census, a citizenship question will “undo decades of work to convince immigrants and communities of color” to respond to the census and necessitate an increase in costly non-response follow-up activities. Many citizens also worry about the data handling of the 2020 Census and whether the data will be improperly shared with other government agencies.

Historically, the Census Bureau has had only three political appointees—the Director, who requires Senate confirmation; the Associate Director for Communications; and the Chief of the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs. The former Census Director John Thompson resigned on June 30, 2017.

The Trump administration has since not nominated a replacement. Instead the administration has placed Kevin Quinley as a "Special Advisor" to the Census Bureau. Mr.Quinly previously worked for Kellyanne Conway’s polling firm for six years through 2016 and worked as the Deputy White House Liaison for the Commerce Department from March 2017 until October 2017, when he was placed in the Census Bureau.

Arturo Vargas, National Advisory Committee of the Census member and Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund notes that, “each question on the decennial survey has been thoroughly tested to ensure it is well understood by the public, and does not depress response rates. Adding any question at this moment, whether on citizenship or any other topic, would sabotage the Census Bureau’s efforts as it prepares to implement a re-engineered, high-tech enumeration strategy.”

Changes in Census data can ultimately be politicized. Census data is used to redraw House districts and the number of House seats each state receives, as well as determining each state’s number of electoral votes in a presidential election.

Democrats believe that changing census questions could result in an improper count, which would result in an inaccurate redistribution of the political spectrum.

Republicans believe the changes to the Census can provide a more accurate playing field.

Warren Davidson (R-OH) said, "apportionment for Congressional seats and electoral votes should be based on citizens, not on residents. Otherwise citizens are underrepresented... For example, California gets roughly three extra members of Congress based on estimates of illegal residents."

“The Census affects the very core of our democracy and how we decide representation in every level of government and that is why we cannot allow it to be manipulated for partisan political purposes with this citizenship question,” said. Rep. Maloney (D-NY), main sponsor of the bill. “While I am confident of our chances in court after last week’s resounding decision directing the Administration to remove the question, I believe Congress must also act to protect the 2020 Census. The census is a scientific undertaking that needs to be free from political manipulation so that the data is accurate and truly representative of the makeup of our country. The Census IDEA Act will help make sure that happens and keep the citizenship question out of the 2020 Census.”


Sponsored by: Rep. Carolyn Maloney [D-NY].

Cosponsored by: 0 Rep / 57 Dem.

See list of cosponsors.

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