WASHINGTON (CN) — Partisan frustrations over the 2020 census flared Thursday on Capitol Hill as House Democrats consulted experts on how to reach hard-to-count communities when the once-in-a-decade tally gets underway.
The 2020 census will begin this month in Alaska and kick off nationwide on April 1, with the district-by-district allocation of nearly $1.5 trillion in federal funding on the line.
After the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census in June, President Donald Trump issued an executive order compelling the Department of Homeland Security to share its data on citizenship with the Census Bureau, a process now underway.
But Democrats have for months stressed that the Trump administration’s push for such information will deter minority communities from participating in the census, resulting in population undercounts that will boost Republican numbers in cities that tend to be ethnically diverse and vote blue.
In the New York litigation that ultimately blocked the addition of a formal citizenship question on the census last year, officials uncovered a damning memo by a Republican political strategist that touted the question as a GOP redistricting strategy.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat representing the heavily minority boroughs of Queens and the Bronx, invoked that memo at Thursday’s hearing.
“We have seen that there is a documented paper trail here,” the freshman congresswoman said.
Representative Carolyn Maloney, a fellow New York Democrat who chairs the Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, said Trump’s illegal effort to add the citizenship question sowed fear and distrust in communities across the country.
“But this appears to be the point,” Maloney added.
For their part, Republicans said Democrats were more focused on attacking the president than launching the census.
Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, the committee's ranking Republican, disputed the expert testimony produced in the New York trial that the citizenship question would discourage census participation.
He also falsely described the citizenship question as one solidified in history.
“We have been doing it for 200 years, until now,” Jordan falsely claimed.
A citizenship question has not appeared on the census since 1950, based on the Census Bureau’s own findings bureau that, even posed to a specific subset of people in a household, the question potentially did more to skew statistics than not.
Between 1890 and 1910, the citizenship-related question was posed only to foreign born men over 21.