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2020 Census Memo Cites ‘Unprecedented Meddling’ From Trump Administration

2020 Census Memo Cites ‘Unprecedented Meddling’ From Trump Administration

The New York Times is reporting on a newly disclosed memo that cites “unprecedented” meddling by the Trump administration in the 2020 census. The memo was circulated among top Census Bureau officials and enumerates how strongly the bureau sought to fend off efforts by the administration to manipulate the count for Republican political gain.

The memo was shared among three senior executives including Ron S. Jarmin, a deputy director and the agency’s day-to-day head. It was written in September 2020 as the administration was pressuring the bureau to end the count weeks early so that if Trump lost the 2020 election in November, he could receive population estimates used to reapportion the House of Representatives before leaving office.

The newly released email was obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School through an ongoing public records lawsuit and details the wide scope of its attempts to buck the bureau’s experts and tamper with the count. According to the document, the agency’s career civil servants saw when to end counting as a “policy decision that political leadership should make.”

The memo lays out a list of instances where the Trump administration is accused of political interference. Senior census officials planned to raise their concerns with Wilbur Ross, who was then the Secretary of the Commerce Department, which oversees the bureau. The issues involved crucial and nuanced technical aspects of the count, including the privacy of census respondents, the use of estimates to fill in missing population data, pressure to take shortcuts to produce population totals quickly, and political pressure on a program that was seeking to identify and count unauthorized immigrants.

Despite the 14th Amendment’s requirement to include the “whole number of persons in each state,” Trump wanted to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the census counts used to reallocate each state’s share of congressional seats and electoral votes. At the time, the Republican Party was facing the reality that if Trump lost the November election, he could also lose a chance to change the census numbers used to redistribute political representation. The window of opportunity was closing for his administration to attempt to radically reshape the futures of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Electoral College.

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On Tuesday, the Biden administration’s Scientific Integrity Task Force, which includes Jarmin, issued a report warning that the bureau and other federal statistical agencies “must protect against interference in their efforts to create and release data that provide a set of common facts to inform policymakers, researchers, and the public.”

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