Calls emerge to 'charge and arrest' Wilbur Ross for politicizing census

Calls emerge to 'charge and arrest' Wilbur Ross for politicizing census
Image via Gage Skidmore.

A well-known political scientist is responding to news the Trump administration used the 2020 Census for partisan, political gain.

“Time to charge and arrest Wilbur Ross,” says Dr. Norman Ornstein, emeritus scholar at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, a contributing editor for the Atlantic, a former political science professor at Catholic University, and a Democrat who has criticized the Electoral College.

“A new stash of documents obtained by Congress has confirmed that the Trump administration pushed to add a citizenship question to the census to help Republicans win elections, not to protect people’s voting rights, a House committee report concluded on Wednesday,” The New York Times reports.

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Wilbur Ross (photo) was Donald Trump’s Secretary of Commerce, the head of the federal government agency that oversees the U.S. Census Bureau which is tasked every ten years with conducting the entire Census operation.

The Census is used to determine how many congressional seats each state is allotted, and how many Electoral College votes each state receives. The 2020 Census results were used to give Texas two additional Electoral College votes. Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, Colorado, and Montana each received one additional vote, while seven other states (California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia) each lost one vote.

The U.S. Constitution specifies counting “the whole number of persons in each State.” It says “persons,” not “citizens.”

Citing “new findings based on drafts of internal memos and secret email communications between political appointees at the Commerce Department,” The Times adds that those “documents provided the most definitive evidence yet that the Trump administration aimed to exclude non-citizens from the count to influence congressional apportionment that would benefit the Republican Party.”

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It also says “the report concluded … that senior officials used a false pretext to build a legal case for asking all residents of the United States whether they were American citizens.”

“Former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had said in congressional testimony that the government decided to add the question because it required more accurate data on citizenship to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

The Guardian’s Sam Levine adds that “Wilbur Ross testified to Congress in 2018 that the decision to add the question was based ‘solely on a DOJ request.’ DOJ has declined to prosecute him for lying to Congress.”

In July of 2019 a census outreach activist told ABC News, “Whether the question is on the form or not, the damage has been done.” That damage is an undercounting of people, especially undocumented people fearful of being deported or otherwise negatively affected if they were to fill out the census.

NPR adds that ultimately the citizenship question was not added to the Census.

“Long kept from the public, the Trump administration memos and emails were disclosed by lawmakers following a more than two-year legal fight that began after Trump officials refused to turn them over for a congressional investigation. Citing the ‘exceptional circumstances’ of the case, the Biden administration, which inherited the lawsuit last year, agreed to allow House oversight committee members and their staff to review the documents.”

“The hotly contested question — ‘Is this a person a citizen of the United States?’ — ultimately did not end up on the 2020 census forms. In 2019, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s unprecedented efforts after finding its use of the Voting Rights Act as the stated reasoning for the question ‘seems to have been contrived,’ as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.”

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