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Senators Introduce Census Data Protection Act

March 27, 2018, 8:30 AM HST
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U.S. Senators, including Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), introduced in mid-March, 2018, the 2020 Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (IDEA) Act, legislation that would protect the accuracy of the 2020 census and ensure any proposed changes to the count are properly studied, researched and tested.

“We need to make sure the 2020 census is on the level,” said Sen. Schatz. “There is too much at stake for Congress to avoid its oversight responsibilities. With this bill, we can protect the 2020 census, and in doing so protect our Constitution.”

This week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross proposed a new addition to the census that may impact the accuracy of the survey. Without proper studies and testing, last-minute changes or additions, such as the one currently being proposed, may discourage people from being counted and may not result in an accurate population count as mandated by the Constitution.

“The census is critical to ensuring everyone is counted accurately and represented fairly in Oregon and nationwide,” said Sen. Wyden. “This legislation will help to achieve that vital task by ensuring political whims do not interfere with this constitutionally required counting of the American people.”

“The Constitution requires the census to count every single person living in each state, not just citizens,” said Sen. Duckworth. “The Trump Administration seems to think they are above the Constitution and are now trying to use the 2020 census to advance their extreme, anti-immigrant agenda. I’m proud to join Sen. Schatz and my Senate colleagues in introducing this important legislation to protect the accuracy of the census and prevent it from being politicized in such a transparently discriminatory fashion.”

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“Major changes to the decennial census require years of careful research, testing and public feedback,” said Sen. Peters. “I am very concerned that abrupt, last-minute additions to the 2020 census will increase costs to the taxpayer and result in a less accurate count. This legislation would hold the Department of Commerce accountable and instill greater trust in the accuracy of census data in communities across the country.”

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The 2020 Census IDEA Act would:

  • Prohibit last-minute changes or additions to the census without proper research, studying, and testing;
  • Ensure that subjects, types of information, and questions that have not been submitted to Congress according to existing law are not included;
  • Require biannual reports on the U.S. Census Bureau’s operation plan, including the status of its research and testing, and require that this report be publicly available on the Bureau’s website;
  • Direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office to determine and report to Congress that the subjects, types of information, and questions on the decennial census have been researched, studied, and tested to the same degree as previous decennial census; and
  • Apply the provisions of this bill only to the decennial census, and not the mid-decade census or the American Community Survey.

The other Senators who introduced the bill are Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

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