Members of the House wanted to grill the Trump administrator responsible for getting the controversial citizenship question on the 2020 census.
But he didn’t show up.
John Gore, head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, was invited to the hearing today but was the only person among the invitees who was absent.
Gore drafted the letter to the Census Bureau asking for the citizenship question to be added, according to documents obtained by ProPublica. The question asks every American household which members of their family are US citizens.
The census hasn’t asked this of every household since 1950. Advocates and Census Bureau research show that asking such a question could deter people from responding and cause an undercount of vulnerable communities.
Gore already had a history of defending voting and redistricting laws that would hurt communities of color; he defended redistricting plans in Virginia, South Carolina, New York, and Florida that gave black voters less influence in Congress. So this hearing would’ve allowed Congress to dig into his justification that the question would help the government “better enforce” the Voting Rights Act.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) was prepared to make an argument to subpoena Gore to show up. But Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, cut her off and said he, too, would like to get Gore in front of them to answer questions.
“We are going to bring him, by legal compulsory if necessary,” Gowdy said.
We already undercount people of color. A citizenship question in the census could exacerbate the problem.
Census Bureau field tests show that a citizenship question on the census could spook Latino respondents. One person reportedly ditched the census worker in their own home. Others were less likely to give accurate information.
And then there’s this report from a census worker:
There was a cluster of mobile homes, all Hispanic. I went to one and I left the information on the door. I could hear them inside. I did two more interviews, and when I came back, they were moving. ... It’s because they were afraid of being deported.
Some Democrats have said adding such a question is a veiled attempt to undercount communities of color, which tend to lean Democratic. This would potentially give Democrats less representation in Congress and in the Electoral College — and that undercount would be with us for 10 years until the next census.
We already undercount black and Latino residents as it is, and the fear is that it would further exacerbate this miscount:
The Trump administration has argued that the citizenship question is needed on the census to get a better count of voting-age citizens. The census, however, already asks about citizenship in the ongoing American Community Survey, which surveys a portion of Americans every month and then uses statistical tools to extrapolate the data. This data stays up to date throughout the decade, and the margins of error are quite good.
The House was likely hoping to get clarity on why the Trump administration, specifically Gore, wants this data from the decennial census. But Gore wasn’t willing to come voluntarily, so we’ll have to wait until House Republicans force him to sit and answer their questions.
For a more, here’s an in-depth explainer on the census.