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The 2020 census is being ‘sabotaged,’ says leading U.S. statistician (bloomberg.com)
142 points by hhs 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 181 comments

> This means [it eliminated] literally a third of the time allocated for the Census Bureau to knock on doors, to try to enumerate the hard-to-count individuals, which happen to be African Americans, Latinx populations, immigrants, people in heavily transitory situations, tribal lands, some Asians.

Random question but why would some races have more trouble than others responding to the census? Is it more to do with poverty than race? Or is there a cultural distrust of the census that aligns with race?

There are many reasons. They discuss poverty in the article. I would agree with cultural distrust of government officials. And very importantly, everything around the citizenship question/issue.

> The notion of these counts ever being used for enforcement — basically targeting high population, low citizenship-count blocks for ICE raids or whatever — that would be really, really problematic.

Stepping back, think in general about a government that wants to target, arrest, and deport certain groups of people, that is also going door to door and trying to establish records of who everyone is and where they live. Because of the bad optics of this, the US census has traditionally been extremely independent from law enforcement. The government has recently been attacking this barrier e.g. with the citizenship question and other things discussed in the article. Historically speaking, you might argue marginalized groups in such scenarios would be foolish to trust the census.

Because of the bad optics of this, the US census has traditionally been extremely independent from law enforcement. The government has recently been attacking this barrier e.g. with the citizenship question

Two points on history and tradition. The census was originally carried out by the US Marshals. That should indicate the importance and weight of the project. The citizenship question was part of the census until 2000 (1950 short form, 2000 long form).

If you are using the census to distribute voting power to states, and the distribution is based on count of citizens, not people, then it is a fair question to ask.

It’s not based on citizens, but on the number of free persons living there (and three fifths non free). This particular word choice is important s as the census and the house have always been based on who’s living in the state not based on citizens living there.

The census is used to fairly apportion infrastructure to areas where people actually live. That this is done by representation is an artifact of our political system, not the Constitutional mandate that requires he census. It's not a fair question, as you say.

You don't have to like it.

The distribution of voting power is based on population, not citizenship. Non-citizens need to be counted too.

Only citizens can vote.

It doesn't matter - when the document was written America had tons of non-citizens and those people were counted.

Slaves couldn't vote either, but in the famous compromise were counted as a portion of a person - the distribution of political power is why.

Citizens of a certain age, who meet certain residency and bureaucratic requirements and haven't lost the right due to criminal convictions.

Women only got the franchise 100 years ago, but had always been counted on the census.

And children still can't vote, and are also counted.

Dutch census recording religion enabled the Nazis to quickly round up the Jews living there a few years later during the occupation

Data from the U.S. census of 1940 was used to round up Japanese Americans and put them into internment camps.


think in general about a government that wants to target, arrest, and deport certain groups of people

Yes. They are deporting people who didn't come into the country legally. Its important to have an accurate count of citizens in the country since that's who votes. There is an upcoming Supreme Court case that will determine if non citizens should be counted for House representation.

You may not agree with it, but it is important to know. With that said, I don't think ending the census early is the right way to handle this issue at all, it's just slimy.

The constitution never said to count the people who vote. If you wanted to know that, just count how many people vote.

The constitution also doesn't preclude counting who is able to vote. The constitution places limits on the government, but we can add things that act within those bounds. Asking about citizenship falls within those bounds.

Article 1 Clause 3 requires enumeration of all free persons.

Yes. Again, counting citizens does not also preclude counting free persons. We already gather data on peoples race and religion, proving that we can gather more data than just headcount, and citizenship information has already been gathered between 1950 and 2000.

Counting only citizens does preclude counting all free persons. (If you're speaking about counting all but considering citizenship a demographic, that's legal and used to be done iirc, but was dropped as it was feared it would disincentivize non-citizen being counted. The recent court case about the citizenship question was settled by the courts because of administrative procedure, not the legality of the question.)

Moreover, collecting demographics data is orthogonal and I'm not sure why you're bringing it up.

The constitution specifically says the census is a count of all "free Persons", not only citizens. Obviously SCOTUS will weigh in now, but I think it's important to realize the actual wording of what the census is.

14th amendment drops the "free"

While also striking the 3/5 compromise, so I don't think it changes the reading.

It uses the term "free Persons" but the context is "their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons".

So "all other Persons", i.e. slaves, were counted.

Well, the 3/5 compromise has been removed, but even still are you arguing that immigrants aren't people or aren't free, i.e. not slaves.

Prisoners aren't free, but they still use infrastructure and I'm pretty sure they are supposed to be counted in the census.

They are, because they are free in that they are not slaves. Prisoners still have a plethora of constitutional rights.

The amendment against slavery excludes prisoners: Sometimes, they are, indeed, slaves.

And yeah, they have rights. But they don't have the right to freedom as we know it nor do they have the right not to be slaves.

You act as though there is a single freedom, which is not the case by any means. The amendment carves out specific exemptions for prisoners for certain things, but that doesn't make them chattal slaves, nor does it remove the rest of their rights, e.g. cruel and unusual punishment, ability to have representation, or have their speech curtailed.

I'm not sure who would classify prisoners as free, though. Classifying prisoners as free is warping what most folks would consider free. You can have rights and not be free. POW's are supposed to have certain rights, too, but that's hardly free. You can have rights without being free. Not being chattal slaves doesn't make you free either, nor does it mean you aren't a temporary slave.

In general, folks would agree that if you are in a situation where you are forced to eat at certain times, possibly only use toilets or showers at certain times, can be used as labor with little to no pay, and can never roam freely at the behest of armed guards that can shoot you, you aren't free. The main exception to some of this is military, but for now, this is something folks choose and some countries' soldiers are more free than the ones in the states.

I'm not going to continue this discussion as you're unwilling to understand that we're discussing free vs non-free as in non-chattel-slave vs chattel-slave, a.k.a. the ownership of another human being. The state does not own prisoners. Prisoners continue to have a plethora of constitutionally protected rights. Prisoners are counted in the census.

Your interpretation would imply they intended non-citizen native Americans to be counted in the Census.

The original text and the 14th amendment both excluded untaxed indians from the apportionment for the house of representatives.

So, they could ask to be counted, but there is no mandate to count them.

Poverty, mainly. The article mentions:

> If you’re hard to count, you’re hard to count. The people who are hardest to count, the ones we worry most about in terms of undercount, are the same folks whose families don’t have food at night or don’t have a job. They’re worried about getting tossed out because they can’t make the rent. Or they’re ill and don’t have health insurance. Those folks tend not to have participating in the census at the top of their minds because they have basic needs that have to be met — for themselves, their children and sometimes for their parents and grandparents.

Statistician (but not a Census statistician) here with a few answers:

Black people have a higher than average non-response rate, even controlling for income, possibly due to a cultural mistrust of government institutions (for good reason).

Recent immigrants may not be able to read the language the census was mailed to them in, and may also be hesitant to respond due to fears of deportation- the point of the census isn’t to hunt down illegals, and people here legally shouldn’t be deported anyway, but the current administration hasn’t done much to reassure people. These effects will apply in differing amounts to Latino and Asian communities.

Finally, the bulk of the census is conducted by mail, and it takes a while to complete. Families without a permanent home might not be counted because they are only temporarily living with another family when the census arrives at that house, or they might be moving between addresses so that they aren’t counted in the response by any household at those addresses. This also disproportionately affects poor people and minorities.

And at least for me, I only received instructions in the mail telling me to do the census online. Not all families have easy access to the internet, and some just can’t be bothered to take the time to respond. This again disproportionately affects poor people and minorities.

To try to counteract these problems, the Census hires people to walk on foot and get responses from low coverage areas. But if you cut down on that effort, you’re going to miss some. One of the results of this could be that the census shows fewer poor people in some cities which will affect government funding decisions. But the tough part for a statistician is showing how much time is needed to walk around and get the coverage that you desire (and how many people you hire to do it). You can make some relatively small changes to your assumptions and get different answers. But cutting the time by a third is a pretty dramatic cut, so without looking at the details, I’m guessing that the coverage has decreased. That’s generally a bad thing since a census is supposed to be a full count of the population and not a sample.

Edit: I’ll also tack on a more nefarious interpretation than just using the Census to cut federal aid money to some cities. The Census is also used to portion electoral college votes for presidential elections. Because of the communities that are affected by this undercoverage, states that normally vote Democrat are more likely to lose votes than states that normally vote Republican. So this could make it easier for a Republican president to be elected in the next couple elections (the votes for the current election will not change however).

I'm not sure it's true that

> states that normally vote Democrat are more likely to lose votes than states that normally vote Republican

because it could be true (1) that individuals who vote Democrat are more likely to go uncounted but (2) that states that vote Democrat are not more likely to be undercounted.

A few (totally imaginary) mechanisms that would do this: 1. Suppose Democrats who are surrounded by Republicans tend not to respond to the census, but everyone else does. Then you'll undercount Democrats, but mostly in places full of Republicans. 2. Suppose rural Democrats tend not to respond to the census, but everyone else does. Then again you'll undercount Democrats, but mostly in more-rural states, which tend to lean Republican. 3. Suppose poorer people (however they vote) tend not to respond to the census, but everyone else does. All else equal, richer people are more likely to vote Republican, but richer states are more Democratic. (I think Andrew Gelman's "Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State" talks about this.) Then Democrats will be undercounted more, but Republican states may be undercounted more.

I don't know whether mechanisms with this sort of counterintuitive property are actually responsible for enough of the census-counting difficulties to produce that paradoxical outcome, but it doesn't seem obviously impossible.

(Of course, if what we're considering is the nefariousness of possible motivations, then what matters isn't whether such mechanisms actually do do that, but whether the potentially-nefarious people in question expect them to. That's a different question and my guess is that they probably don't even if they should.)

"Families without a permanent home might not be counted because they are only temporarily living with another family when the census arrives at that house, or they might be moving between addresses so that they aren’t counted in the response by any household at those addresses."

Apartment living is also a big factor for postal balloting. Security of mail boxes, inconsistent updates for forwarding addresses, etc.

> And at least for me, I only received instructions in the mail telling me to do the census online

FWIW, I believe the Census Bureau sent either an online form or a paper form, depending on the prevalence of internet access in your area. I think they would also follow up with a form in the mail if you didn't respond online.

Q: Do you have any sense for how many people might have been counted had the census efforts continued to Oct. 31?

> It’s not going to be much. If you’re hard to count, you’re hard to count. The people who are hardest to count, the ones we worry most about in terms of undercount, are the same folks whose families don’t have food at night or don’t have a job. They’re worried about getting tossed out because they can’t make the rent. Or they’re ill and don’t have health insurance. Those folks tend not to have participating in the census at the top of their minds because they have basic needs that have to be met — for themselves, their children and sometimes for their parents and grandparents.

> Because of those things that those people have to deal with, you actually could have extended the time for another month on top of that and you’d only get marginal gains. The census was already in a tough position. It would definitely help to get as much time as possible, because as people become acquainted with how to deal with Covid, they can do the grassroots effort that’s needed to get people to participate. But it’s going to be a marginal increase. At the end of the day, the die has been cast for quite a while: There are going to be undercounts of communities of color. The only question is how large — and is it so large that action needs to be taken in the form of litigation or legislation.

I'd really like to know how large the undercount is estimated to be. Is it 1%? 0.1%? 0.01%?

Because that changes how I think of this. If you've undercounted LA county population by 1,000 that's a completely different beast than 100,000.

Poor people move around vastly more frequently and often end up temporarily sharing living spaces.

I came across a census worker in Portland who was doggedly trying to track down a former tenant of the house I was staying at. Having knocked doors I appreciate the hustle and tenacity the people on the ground for the census have.

Sounds like it's not discrimination against race then, but of economic status. The disenfranchisement of poor people.

Poor white people aren't likely to have an undocumented person living in their household though. People in that situation are much less likely to talk to government employees or to fill out census forms in the first place.

So yes it's is undercounting poor people, but also disproportionately immigrants and relatives of immigrants.

Poor white people aren't likely to have an undocumented - person of color - living in their household.

I've known a number of local households that had undocumented Canadians, Brits and Germans.

It's been my experience that Americans who are hyper-concerned with illegal immigration, aren't grinding their teeth over these nationalities.

There's definitely a double standard. But Canadians and Europeans make up less than 5% of the total number of undocumented immigrants in the US.

So I still stand by my point that poor white people aren't likely to have undocumented people living in their household at all. Regardless of race.

>I've known a number of local households that had undocumented Canadians, Brits and Germans.

Also how many of those households were poor? There isn't nearly as much incentive for a poor Canadian, Brit, or German to come here as an undocumented immigrant because they'd be giving up guaranteed health care and far more permissive social services.

Let's consider this conversely. Do you feel that the tone, tenor and actions (of immigration resistance) would be different, in any way, if Euro descendants made up 95% of immigrants?

It's not mutually exclusive. Discrimination against a race does increase poverty. And poverty increases discrimination against a race.

It’s easy to discriminate if you allow proxy’s. Just find something that hurts them more than it hurts you and repeat.

Race is already being used as a proxy for political affiliation. Using a proxy for Race as a proxy for political affiliation is less efficient, but still effective.


Please don’t strawman on HN.

I didn't strawman anything. Original question was asking about race discrimination and the response was about "poor people".

The original question asked

> Is it more to do with poverty than race

Fair enough, I misinterpreted the original question because the quoted part of the article did not reference poverty. Thank you.

> Is it more to do with poverty than race?

I believe they were specifically addressing this part of the parent comment. A benevolent reading of the reply would not point towards this rather blatantly racist interpretation of its meaning.

Among other things, safety for minorities. The census is supposed to be secret and never used for any sort of law enforcement, etc. But in our living memory that protection was abused. The US census was used to help round up Americans of Japanese descent and put them in concentration camps in the 40s.

It'd be nice to think that could never happen again. But then you had the Trump people literally trying to put a citizenship question on the census despite every expert saying it was a mistake. The intent was clearly to intimidate (we have this in writing). The question ended up being left off but the damage was already somewhat done.

https://www.nytimes.com/2000/03/17/us/report-says-census-bur... https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/04/03...

American blacks were more hit by corona virus for example.

American black are incarcerated more often which affects whole community. Ex prisoners and their families have unique housing stability problems.

Their family structure is different - more single women with or without children as males are not available. Also, more tight communities. Less of nuclear family more of extended family.

White people live more segregated per socioeconomic class, black mix more. Blacks and white are segregated anyway, so whatever you do you are not reaching both.

Here is some inside info. I work for the Census. It is a highly dysfunctional organization. Nothing to do with current administration.

The various software the local offices use actively hinders the job of management and enumerators (the people who come to your door). Hundreds of and hundred of millions of dollars and incalculable time is wasted just due to this. Imagine the worst ERP or CRM that you have ever used, this is worse and approximately 250 offices use it across the country, and this inhibits the jobs of nearly half a million people.

Talk to any Area manager, Lead Census Field Manager/Field manager, Office Operation Supervisor, or Office Clerk. They will tell you how they have to fight the software to get their job done.

Truth is the Census could be done with half the people. There is plain incompetence in middle and higher management. Those making decision on software and marketing seem to have no understanding of the job those in local offices do. It is so bad local offices don't really have an accurate idea who even is still employed in the field working cases.

Why doesn't this change? Nobody wants to lose their job. Middle management wants numbers and to hit goals. It doesn't matter if the numbers are actually accurate. Often they will not be. Notes about cases (organizations we are trying to count their people/or individual housing units) pile up inside systems that nobody has time to read. It is easier to close a case then actually resolve it and accurately count people.

Not only is there no incentive to do the job correctly, it will actually get you in trouble if you do things right.

Yes this is a random throwaway account on HN. But to verify just ask nearly anyone who works for the Census. I hope to post more on this later when I have time. Feel free to ask any questions.

In the future daily low-cost high-resolution images of the country could give a real-time accurate headcount.

Is that being discussed? Would be a good way to get away from the 10 year lag data and have real time information to make policy choices.

Upper management wouldn't know what that means. Can't even make a good app.

You should mention it somehow, would be good to plant the seed that the organization may be able to solve the counting issue in the next decade, then they can move on to other labels to focus on.

A big part of why Census doesn't operate better is the Republicans chronically underfund it. This entire census cycle was the Trump Administration's responsibility. If Census lacks the tools and capabilities to execute it, it's on them.

I am not a republican, but this isn't true. There is so much waste and inefficiency. The Census wastes billions of dollars right now. Again ask almost any Census employee about how much time an money is wasted. Not everything is Trump's fault, he isn't that capable.

>Not everything is Trump's fault, he isn't that capable.

LOL. That's a new level !

Successful management of anything -- a startup, a corporation, or an entire country -- requires successful measurement.

Successful measurement requires collecting good, accurate data.

Sabotaging the census is tantamount to sabotaging the government's ability to run the country.

It's the sort of thing that in my mind should be able to happen only in poorly-run countries managed by corrupt regimes.

The leading statistician claiming that the census is being sabotaged, Robert Santos, was recently elected as President of the American Statistical Association. We should probably take his claims seriously.

I find it almost unbelievable that this is happening in the United States of America.

From what I can tell, a second (third?) census extension is being denied. It’s not that the census is unusually being cut short. I got a different impression from this article.

The census bureau was original granted an extension that has been rolled back. It's not being cut "unusually" short, but the pandemic drastically impacted the census bureau's ability to do their work, and we are giving them less extra time than they say they need.

I'm surprised they're not just cancelling or postponing it. In 2011, earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, displaced thousands of people. The national census scheduled for the following month was cancelled, and a replacement was later organised for 2013. I think the theory was that delayed statistics were better than unreliable and incomplete statistics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_census#History

The US constitution requires them to do it every 10 years, and it was last done in 2010.

More cynically it’s been really politicised and not doing it this year would risk the Democrats being in power to do it next year.

Wow, it's kind of astounding to me that which party is in power could make a difference to a census.

Being in the country's constitution does make it difficult to delay.

I think our government is unable to budget without it. And isn’t it constitutionally mandated?

What government agency has ever said they need less time or less money? So giving them less than they say they need is the normal state of affairs for government agencies.

The only difference is that now the aggrieved bureaucrats have a receptive audience in credulous journalists who are always ready to write a story about how the current administration is "ending democracy" if they don't do exactly what the bureaucrats want. So you would expect right wing media doing stories on how the military, the VA or the border patrol is underfunded or has had excessive "political interference" during Democrat administrations, and left wing media (which is 95% of the "mainstream" media on the US) would be expected to say the same about different parts of the government with a republican administration.

Just normal politics at work - doesn't mean the stories aren't important, but let's keep things in context.

Can you clarify what your scale and definitions of left|center|right are?

You realize there's a pandemic on?

It was significantly delayed in starting, because of the pandemic. Failing to extend a pre-pandemic deadline is leaving less time than usual.

An extension that is agreed and then revoked would completely ruin the plans of almost any project. It is unusually being cut short.

Exactly! They’re trying to phrase it as “cut it short” when in reality it’s “not drag it out forever”.

I am a little skeptical about how dire this will really be. Census takers are allowed to guesstimate if non-responses reasonably make them believe they are undercounting:

>In instances where the bureau is unsure of the number of residents at an address after a field visit, its population characteristics are inferred from its nearest similar neighbor (hot-deck imputation). This practice has effects across many areas, but is seen by some as controversial.[6] However, the practice was ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Utah v. Evans.


This is only tangentially related, but I think it provides important context to this discussion about the motives of those involved.


Both sides have ulterior motives.

Counting illegal immigrants in the census helps Democrats because liberal states have more of them. This is just a fact. You may think we should still count as many of them in the census, that's fine. But don't pretend there is no issue with one side of the argument.

Mentioning motives of one side but not the other is naive. It also prevents us from having a real conversation about the trade offs at hand.

But that’s the whole point of the census. I agree Democrats wouldn’t care if it weren’t politically beneficial, but in this case their interest and the law coincide. Everyone, legal resident or not, should be counted. There’s zero legal /constitutional question about it. If you’re going to get angry every time someone does the right thing for the wrong reasons, I am afraid you’re in for a lifetime of disappointment.

Now if Democrats were trying to increase census coverage in Florida, Texas, NY, and IL while playing games to get census takers to skip traversing the vast emptiness of Montana and Wyoming, I’d agree that you have a point. But that’s not the case.

If there wasn’t a constitutional question there wouldn’t be an upcoming Supreme Court case about it.

And let’s be real - I find it pretty unlikely the constitution and 14th Amendment were written with massive amounts of illegal aliens being in the country in mind. Should we count tourists from other countries as well?

The Constitution was, however, written with massive amounts of slaves being in the country in mind. And even they were counted as three fifths of a person. Should illegal immigrants be counted as less?

At the time, slavery was legal. Unauthorized residency is not.

It seems obvious to me the census is intended to count everyone living there, legally or otherwise. So tourists wouldn’t count.

It’s not so clear. Tourists are free people, and it might make sense to count them if we are trying to allocate resources to serve all free people (which tourists are).

If you don’t count tourists, why would you count migrants who are supposedly going back to their home country? Maybe tourists who are here for 6 months would be analogous.

Who said we should count migrants that are supposedly going back to their country?

Lots of commenters here.

It’s not as simple.

Essentially the vote of two US citizens does not count equally if you count everyone.

If one lives in an area with more illegal immigrants, that US citizens votes foe him/her but also for the non voters in the area. This is not a ‘one person one vote’ situation and it’s a real concern if you believe in equal representation.

Ideally you’d have a citizenship question and you count only citizens for electoral college allocation and everyone for non electoral college matters. But that creates concerns of undercounting etc.

Elected officials represent all the constituents in their district, not just the citizens.

Are you mad that the census counts children too? They don't vote either. Would you favor the census skipping children? Should the census count people who don't regularly vote? How about felons denied the right to vote? People judged too mentally incompetent to vote? Just who all are you willing to not count?

> Are you mad that the census counts children too?

This is a good point.

Should a district be penalized because their constituents chose to have more kids per family unit than others? Their voting power would go down in the interim, wouldn't it?

Thanks for raising the argument - it does a good job of showing why tying the census to voting power is meaningless.

Sometimes the reductio ad absurdum is helpful. But really the poster's initial argument is just complete ignorant nonsense. Perhaps they have never read the Constitution's definition of the Census or are unaware of 200+ years of history.

> Essentially the vote of two US citizens does not count equally if you count everyone.

It's not just about the vote. Redistricting is one aspect of it, sure, but it's not the sole reason a census is done.

It's done primarily to predict tax revenues, predict infrastructure needs, predict growth patterns, support municipal planning, etc., all of which are necessities for projects that often span decades.

If you're concerned about the vote, deal with the challenge posed by the electoral college instead. The Census is used for too many other things to be manipulated for the sake of political interests by one party.

That is not how the US census had ever worked. See the 3/5 Compromise.

TBH, I don't think it really matters. I mean, take voting for example. Democrats have a clear ulterior motive to expand voting, Republicans have a clear ulterior motive to make voting as difficult as possible.

But, TBH, I don't really care much about their motives, because in a democracy we should be trying to get the most eligible people as possible to vote. Republicans are trying to prevent people from voting because they believe the more voting is expanded, the harder it is to get a majority of people to vote for them. Well, tough shit.

To see what has happened in Texas, with dropboxes limited to one-per-county, I feel like the previous argument against voter fraud has kind of gone out the window, and now it's just blatant - there is no rational reason the giant county that contains Houston should be limited to the same number of dropboxes as a rural county with orders of magnitude fewer people.

Not American but I think a census should reflect reality. This means: which people (regardless of legal status) are currently living in an given area.

How this then translates into policy is an entirely different question, but essentially misrepresenting what should be objective reality for cheap political points is asking for trouble. A bit like closing your eyes: it doesn't make things go away.

American, and agree.

It should also include the average amount of tourists (steady state) so that the presence of more people in an area get sufficient resources (to serve citizens and non-citizens alike).

That's not an ulterior motive, it's a direct motive for counting everybody.

An ulterior motive would be expressing support for a counting method with a statement about the technical superiority of the method, but really preferring it because of some bias inherent in it. The "ulterior" part comes from the motivation being different than what is publicly expressed.

Counting all people who live in the United States of America as well as the distribution of people is the mandate of the Census. The status of said people is irrelevant - taxes are still paid, infrastructure decisions must still be made, etc., so whether any one side benefits more than the other by sticking to the letter of the mandate is irrelevant.

When deviating from the mandate, it's important to consider motives. When aligning with the mandate, unless it's clear that the mandate is ill-formed (which it isn't in this case for the reasons I've given above), motives for enforcing the mandate are, as said above, irrelevant.

> liberal states have more [illegal immigrants]

I was skeptical about this so I looked it up. Nevada and Texas are the top 2 states on a per capita basis. I'd hardly call those liberal states.


The entire purpose of the census is to count everyone. Citizens and non-citizens. Your attempt to make a "both sides" argument here is pitting the very constitutional purpose of the census against a racist party intent on suppressing representation for minorities.

Could they run a new census? Is there a rule that limits how often it is done?

Things that you hear from Turkey or Brazil or Belarus or some other distant "third-world" or even "communist" countries are happening right in our own backyard.

If we were not the superpower country, we would have already got "sanctions" but no one can yet. But the next time America sanctions other countries for human rights or governance, rest assured they will laugh it off.

I realize for political reasons we have to only support one side via extreme sophistry, essentially the whole topic is a giant dog whistle test to make sure our community is politically pure.

However its VERY hard to ignore the reality that essentially 100% of the US population has no difficulty, on average, kinda paying electric bills and property tax bills and phone bills.

Part of the sophistry is pretending that no non-white people are capable of responding to documents mailed to them and as such will be entirely disenfranchised. However, the actual percentage simply cannot be that high as 73 percent of households have satellite or cable TV and thus are at least occasionally responding to mailed documents. 73 percent of the population isn't even white anymore.

I mean, yeah, as a political purity test we can rally around Orange Man Bad and try to one up each other in our two minutes hate to eliminate diversity of opinion while encouraging groupthink, but reality is so far from the politics in this particular situation that its hard to play along. And if an individual can't stomach the extreme virtue signallers, may as well join the reality-based community and just vote Trump. So ironically I don't think this topic is a PRODUCTIVE purity test even from a purely leftist perspective.

> However its VERY hard to ignore the reality that essentially 100% of the US population has no difficulty, on average, kinda paying electric bills and property tax bills and phone bills.

"essentially 100%" is an overstatement. Federal Reserve data (see e.g. Figure 12 here [1]) consistently shows that quite a few Americans have difficulty paying bills. For example, ~25% of surveyed Americans with a high school degree or less said they couldn't pay that month's bills. That number gets smaller with more education but is always 50-100% larger for black and Hispanic people.

It seems reasonable to me that people juggling various overdue bills might not prioritize responding to a census that has 0 short-term positive impact. It also seems reasonable to me that we make an extra effort to count these people since the point of the census is to count everybody, not just people who are easy to count.

[1] https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/2019-economic-we...

You seem to be extremely certain of your position and seem to find it impossible to believe that Robert Santos, the statistician in question, could have any motive other than a political one in sounding the alarm. However, "if people can pay their electric bill then surely they can respond to the census" is not a fact and it's not a logical argument, it's just your gut feeling, which you seem to find a superior source of truth to what experts are saying. Why?

Robert Santos works for the Urban Institute which the LA times has called 'leading liberal think tank'. [1]

It's impossible to read a comment about the census without looking at the political affiliation of who makes the comment.

It's also unfortunately that articles like this don't make these affiliations clear. Gives fuel to 'fake news' and 'liberal media' arguments.

[1] http://articles.latimes.com/1988-06-12/news/mn-7095_1_urban-...

I can imagine neutral, nonpolitical commentary on the census process, but that's not what Santos is offering. He says that the census wouldn't have been fair even if the count had been extended, due to factors such as "the public policy climate" and "toxic immigrant policies".

Santos does not offer neutral commentary, but he claims to offer objective commentary: it is objectively possible that public policy and immigrant policies will negatively affect the census. You can't discount that possibility and ignore the arguments made in favor of that possibility (read the article!) just because you don't like someone's politics.

I'm not discounting the possibility. But even if he's right on every objective question and we agree with his value judgments, a claim that we need immigration policy reform is inherently political, and we need to acknowledge that in order to effectively understand the situation.

Not paying your electricity or cable bill may result in denial of service. Not responding to the census has no obvious consequences.

Technically, it’s a federal crime to refuse to respond. It’s just that no one has been prosecuted for not doing it in decades.

It's alarming to see white supremacists arguments being made on Hacker News.

You’re so wrapped up in buzzwords you’ve lost the real conversations.

What a goofy comment

Trying to sidestep democracy is how you end up with armed revolt. I wish both sides would realizing their destroying people’s faith in the system and how quickly that can destabilize everything.

> I wish both sides would realizing their destroying people’s faith in the system

And I wish people would stop saying 'both sides' when it's 95% only one side. That's the issue. One side is now against census so people aren't represented, restricting voting so people don't get a say, and people keep saying 'both sides'.

I don't understand the Democratic side here either. There's a question of citizenship, but census data is used to determine allocation of electoral college votes. The electoral college system being something that I support but that Democrats keep trying to undermine. Yeah if you come here undocumented, or illegally, there's pretty natural consequences. I don't think anyone should ignore that. And they seem to want undocumented immigrants to be treated at the same level as legally naturalized citizens, but they rarely take any opportunities for immigration reform and the state of immigration enforcement under Obama wasn't so much better than Trump's that I yearn for the return of a Democratic presidency. So yeah - both sides erode my faith in the system. Just because I think one candidate in this election is worse doesn't mean I'm not angry at the pathetic counter from the Democrats.

Counting everyone is literally what’s in the constitution.

Remember, when the country was formed immigration wasn’t some complex thing you just showed up. Picture an immigration official trying to turn back a ship full of slaves because they where undocumented or missing paperwork. Meanwhile they still counted as 3/5th person in the official count.

I'd be fine with that, but let's be clear that that's not the system the Democrats move towards. Instead we have this weird system where a bunch of people jump through hoops to be here legally and a bunch of people don't, and Democrats pick and choose when they care about either one. There's no predictability, rule of law, consistency or sense on this issue from either party.

I began immigration to the US under a Democratic administration and finished it at the end of a Democratic controlled Congress and another Democratic administration. It was consistently a badly run, non-sensical process. So FOH with claims that Democrats would like a country with open borders or that they're much better at running a sane process.

It really looks like you’re conflating policy with bureaucracy.

Open borders isn't their policy either. A census that just counts people isn't their policy either. Source: censuses I've taken under Democratic exrcutives asked me plenty of other questions.

And even if those things were their policy, if the bureaucracy is still the same, what difference does it really make? The article concerns itself with links between how a bureaucracy is run and policies. This thread of conversation deals with people's faith in a "system".

> Source: censuses I've taken under Democratic exrcutives asked me plenty of other questions.

That's not the point. The Supreme Court was convinced by the evidence presented (statements on record by people in the current administration) that the intend of the citizenship question was to reduce the count of people with illegal immigration status. So the question was intended to undermine the primary purpose of the census as mandated by the constitution: counting all the people.

You don't have to understand the democrats, you just have to understand the Supreme Court ruling.

It's clearly spelled out in the constitution that it should be an accurate count of all people.

People not eligible to vote (non-citizens, mostly slaves) were explicitly intended to be included by design.

If you want that to be different, there is a process for that, and that's a constitutional amendment.

I agree. It would be much better if both sides were at least honest.

for example, the Democrats could say "we understand some electoral college votes will be indirectly allocated to illegal immigrants, we also understand that because liberal states have more illegal immigrants it will help the left more than the right, but that's the price to pay for counting every actual US citizen."

The republicans could say, 'we want to make sure only US citizens count in terms of votes, and we will lose some actual US citizens plus we will undercount illegal immigrants (which is useful in other, non voting related ways) in order to ensure that.'

Then we can have a conversation. The way this dialog is being had, with liberal statisticians making 'scientific arguments' and republicans attacking electoral integrity is just a mess.

I agree with the general thrust of what you're saying in terms of honesty, but I want to point out that it's not clear that the ground truth fits/supports this framing.

If you look at something like https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/interactives/u-s-unauth... and sort the list any way you want: There are several reliable D/R states with almost no undocumented immigrant population, and several D/R states with 3%+.

It’s something of a tossup if counting all immigrants directly helps Republicans or Democrats in term of house seats. That really depends on which states are near the breakpoint and so far we just don’t have that data, presumably the current administration is basing their choices on something we don’t know rather than ideology.

It might impact gerrymandering efforts, which gets even more complicated and again without a clear winner unless you have a preliminary version of the data to work with.

Honestly, I dislike what’s being done due to optics more than politics.

There are multiple games being played concurrently by all of the different participants, making it hard to understand what/why from the local context of a single game.

If both sides erode your faith in the system, I suspect it's because you see real problems that need to be solved, but the people "elected to solve them" are instead constrained by these games.

Speaking of systems--can you clarify what about the electoral college system you support, and perhaps cite either some systemic features/biases/incentives you think it corrects for, or perhaps some points in U.S. history where you think the electoral college system improved overall outcomes?

I think the "Great Compromise" helps correct for the fact that people in different locations value different things and have different experiences. People who live in farming communities understand plenty of things that people in cities don't and vice-versa. Beyond that, it's an agreement that was reached between states who were giving up their sovereignty to join together. If we discard compromises like that because people who won the popular vote by a tiny margin now think it's outdated and that they have some democratic mandate, then collectively society has lost my trust to keep it's word on future compromises wherein I'm asked to forfeit some of my independence and sovereignty.

Thanks for responding. I'm going to poke at this a bit, so I want to be clear that I respect you for engaging.

> I think the "Great Compromise" helps correct for the fact that people in different locations value different things and have different experiences. People who live in farming communities understand plenty of things that people in cities don't and vice-versa.

This phrasing feels like a platitude that can justify any distribution of electoral-college power we feel like creating. Can you clarify how it "corrects" for people having different locations/values/experiences?

Maybe it helps to focus on narrower questions like: Do you feel like the current winner-take-all allocation in most states or proportional allocation as used in Nebraska and Maine either uphold or undermine the values you're describing here?

> ...it's an agreement that was reached between states who were giving up their sovereignty to join together. If we discard compromises like that because people who won the popular vote by a tiny margin now think it's outdated and that they have some democratic mandate, then collectively society has lost my trust to keep it's word on future compromises wherein I'm asked to forfeit some of my independence and sovereignty.

This feels a little unfair...

1. States made a compromise of some sovereignty to join, but the compromise was very much about protecting significant parts of that sovereignty. The states, quite pointedly, retain the sovereignty to modify the compromise. If the electoral college is discarded, it will be because states exercised their sovereignty, via this process, to do so.

2. Following the above, minus a few stipulations, each state legislature retains broad power regarding how their electors are selected and what they are expected to do. Something like the Fair Vote proposal entails exercising this sovereignty.

Enumeration Clause of the Constitution says that the census counts everyone.

Legislators can change that through legislation. They're not supposed to sabotage the accuracy of the census.

And I wish people would stop defending the other side in that 5% as if 5% was okay.

When someone claims it’s 50%, it’s critical to point out when it’s actually 5%, or corrective resources are misallocated. Focusing as much on the 5% as the 95% is the exact mechanism by which the 95% is allowed to get that bad.

I would argue that "how dare you talk about the 5% given there's a 95% about, what do you mean equal enforcement of uniform rules, anyone who is concerned about anything but the 95% is a moral monster" is also part of how the 95% got so bad.

People have built-in game theory enough to be highly sensitive to others trying to set up unequal enforcement.

It might not be close to 50:50 but it’s not 95:5. Less tainted is still tainted.

When I say both sides, I mean both sides. Gerrymandering to give minorities districts for example does the same thing to undermine people’s faith in the system. The goal should be to outlaw gerrymandering not find some way to allow it to be useful politically.

Should people in DC maintain the right to vote? IMO they should, but it’s become a political issue not a democracy issue.

Sure. But point is saying “both sides” right now is a harmful thing to say. The current Republican party is doing far more damage to democracy than any other in recent memory.

Sadly doing more harm doesn’t prevent each side from attacking the other on this issue. Having a consistent stance that every vote should count resonances in a way that picking specific issues just doesn’t.

I am not saying you can’t play the game. It’s a terrible idea to split your states votes while the electoral collage is in it’s current form. Acknowledging this is how things are, and we should come up with a better solution is fine. Fighting each issue separately isn’t.

Nobody is gerrymandering to give minorities districts. People are either splitting minorities between several districts in order to keep them from having a say, or packing them all into one district to keep surrounding districts from having Democratic majorities (and to attack people having a problem with the shape of the district as attackers of the only district representing that minority.)

> Should people in DC maintain the right to vote? IMO they should, but it’s become a political issue not a democracy issue.

Only in the 21st century do voting issues only become political when they can be looked at in terms of race.

"Political" means about the process of governance, not "when minorities or women have a complaint."

Maryland and California both have several arguably well intentioned though racially motivated districts. The Supreme Court has ruled that splitting minority districts is a violation of the U.S. Constitution as it weakens their voice. Which has made this a common fight between the parties.

However, this idea that districts should be advantageous to some group is inherently corrosive to the idea of democracy. You can’t have your cake and eat it to, either districts need to be arbitrary lines drawn without political influence or your just deciding what influences are allowed.

PS: Packing means these districts can also be used to hurt democrats by creating a single district with extreme bias you can create several safe districts which would otherwise be contested.

> The goal should be to outlaw gerrymandering

Precisely one party is proposing laws and suits that push in this direction.

I'm assuming by right to vote you mean congressional representation. Since certainly residents of DC do vote for president, among other leaders.

Of course congressional representation for DC is a political issue. Framing this as an issue of democracy doesn't tell the whole story. DC is a federal district and by design has no representation in Congress. This was a political decision.

Congressional action to grant DC statehood outright has no precedent and seemingly goes against the constitution. If residents of DC want the same congressional representation as states, then retrocession to return parts of DC to Maryland or Virginia is the main constitutionally viable option - this has been done before. Congress granting DC statehood outright would be a misuse of their power. This whole thing is rife with politics.

I would be fine dumping DC voters into MD and or VA, hell randomly assign them across the country.

Playing the hypothetical harm issue is kind of laughing in the face of democracy as an idea. They don’t even have final say in local laws.

There's a lot of things you can "both sides" but only one side is undermining democracy because their positions are unpopular.


> Democratic Party using the judicial branch and SCOTUS to legislate from the bench because

Hasn't the supreme court been majority conservative for quite some time? Not majority liberal?

(unless your comment is sarcasm)

thought it was sarcasm at first, but it appears rubyistSeva genuinely isn't aware that the Democratic nominee was blocked four years ago on the basis of it being an election year, only for the Republican party to turn around and do exactly that this year.

This has the entire list of ‘N’s in U.S. history:


The Republican party had no reason to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland - the votes did not exist to confirm him. The role of the Senate is to provide advice and consent - there was no consent so there was no reason to do it.

This year is different - Republicans hold the majority of the Senate and the White House. This nominee has the votes.

Believe it or not, the Senate used to actually follow the law as written and advice and consent, and not simply reject out of hand because the nominating president was of the opposing political party. 13 Supreme Court Justices have been confirmed by a Senate controlled by the opposing party since 1945. All of these were under a Republican President and confirmed by a Democratic Senate.

The last Justice to fail to be confirmed was Bork in 1987, for the very valid reason of his association with Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre prior to the latter's forced resignation.

The process was never intended to be a political, partisan battle, and this was respected by both parties until 2016. Merrick Garland was (and remains) eminently qualified for the seat, and nobody serious on either side of the aisle claims otherwise. I defy anyone to give me a cogent reason why he should not have been given the prescribed consent by the Senate. Mitch McConnell has most likely indelibly changed the Supreme Court confirmation process to be a purely political one, to the great detriment of the Court. Incredibly shortsighted, in my opinion, as it has dispensed with all pretense of a supra-partisan deliberating body.

The Senate has traditionally accepted the president's nominee assuming s/he was qualified. Garland had previously been out forward by the GOP as an example of a qualified and respected judge. And let's not forget that had Clinton won, the GOP was determined to keep that seat on the court empty for 4 years. They said as much. And when they refused to even consider Garland they also said that their newly made-up rule would apply if the shoe was on the other foot. They clearly didn't mean that, and the rationale for confirming Barrett that you are parroting above is just that, a rationale. An excuse. Don't pretend the rest of us are stupid. We know exactly why your position on this has changed and it has everything to do with the fact that your side has the temporary power to do what it wants.

Don't act like "your side" wouldn't do the exact same if the parties were reversed.

A few years ago, they wouldn't have. Now they would, and should. The GOP has escalated and the Democrats need to respond in kind by expanding the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary, to undo the damage caused by years of Republican obstruction which prevented Obama from appointing hundreds of judges.

Please stop pretending that this game of escalating stakes and norm-breaking is somehow on the Democrats. We've been watching Mitch McConnell and we remember what he's done.

That wasn’t the stated reason given by the party at that time. The line sold to the public was ‘can’t confirm in an election year,’ which can be found in many public statements by Republicans at that time.

Going through with a nomination while voting has actually started and announcing it one hour after the death of a justice is pure hypocrisy, plain and simple.

In that case, the Senate can always just refuse to confirm a new justice whenever the majority isn't the same party as the president.

That is the case. I don't think it is obvious that this sort of naked use of power is always going to be the best strategy for a political group though. Only time will tell, but it appears to me that the coalition of voters the GOP has long relied on is starting to fracture.

yes, they can.

To me, your comment reads as an interesting bit of mental gymnastics.

> The Republican party had no reason to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland - the votes did not exist to confirm him.

The senators are supposed to go to the hearing and then decide whether they think the guy should be confirmed. For you to say he didn't have the votes is to admit it is just a power grab.

Why not just hold the hearing and vote against him if you don't like what you hear? The silly thing about this is they could have just gone through the motions, just like they are doing now.

Anthony Kennedy was a swing vote and he retired in 2018, so no - it was not "majority conservative". Kennedy voted in the affirmative for both Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Obergefell v. Hodges, both of which both being particularly egregious examples of legislation from the bench. I am both pro gay marriage and pro-choice - but neither of these things exist in the Constitution. Not one word. Either amend the Constitution or allow states to create their own legislation. If both Roe/Casey and Obergefell disappeared overnight - do you think abortion and gay marriage would all of a sudden become illegal in New York and California?

If the Democrats don't see the judicial branch as an extension of the legislative, then why would they be threatening to pack the court with justices that will vote for their causes?

Wasn't Anthony Kennedy nominated by a Republican president?

> pack the court with justices

Without taking a side myself, I think the problem is this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merrick_Garland_Supreme_Court_...

And more specifically:

> He [Mitch McConnell] said the next Supreme Court justice should be chosen by the next president—to be elected later that year.[1][2][3] Senate Democrats criticized the move as being unprecedented, and responded saying that there was sufficient time to vote on a nominee before the election.[4]

Democrats are not happy with the double standard set by Republicans of blocking a nominee when a justice dies during an election year when it's a liberal one, and not blocking (instead, quickly accelerating) a nominee when it's a conservative one.

Republican presidents have been notoriously bad at nominating justices that interpret the law as written, instead of projecting their own personal views and agenda onto them. Anthony Kennedy and David Souter both being particular bad appointees, John Roberts is also pretty bad.

Merrick Garland did not have the votes to be confirmed.

Let's not pretend that the democrats would not ram through a justice to replace RBG in the exact same scenario where they have the White House and the Senate.

I think you will find the overwhelming majority of things decided by the Supreme Court are ‘not in the constitution’. That’s simply not how or why it was setup.


First case: Attorney General did not permissibly construe Controlled Substances Act to prohibit the distribution of drugs for physician-assisted suicide

3rd: Habeas corpus relief may not be granted on the basis of debatable inferences used to overturn the trial court's finding vis-á-vis peremptory challenges

5th: Arbitrator must decide legality of contract unless arbitration clause is itself being challenged

10th: States may constitutionally limit the evidence of innocence a defendant convicted of a capital offense may present at his sentencing hearing to the evidence already presented at his trial.

> I am both pro gay marriage and pro-choice - but neither of these things exist in the Constitution. Not one word.

Neither does straight marriage.

Because marriage was supposed to be managed by _the states_ which is what the constitution says. Both Obergfell and Roe/Casey created constitutional "rights" out of thin air.

If you think those hot button issues define liberal vs conservative, you may be farther to the right than you think.

Republican presidents placed 11 supreme court justices in a row, from Nixon through GH Bush. Clinton placed two, and republicans have been whining about needing to fix the liberal supreme court ever since. GW Bush placed two, Obama placed two, and it looks like Trump will place three.

You are quoting someone, but I want to add on that "legislate from the bench" is a phrase that is invoked when the speaker doesn't agree with an outcome but never when they agree with an outcome. It means nothing.

It's not about having a "liberal" justice or a "conservative" justice. It's about having a court that does what is supposed to do - _interpret_ the law, not create it. Republican Presidents have been very bad at choosing justices that do this as well, David Souter being probably the worst example.

Pick a case where you believe they created law, then cite the bill that they wrote.

> You are quoting someone, but I want to add on that "legislate from the bench" is a phrase that is invoked when the speaker doesn't agree with an outcome but never when they agree with an outcome. It means nothing.

I like the outcome of Roe v. Wade but see it as an example of legislating from the bench.

There's also nothing wrong with that. The distinction between the different branches creating law is pretty vague. If congress makes a law and the court strikes it down, are they "legislating from the bench"? Or are they merely pointing out that the new law is incompatible with the rest of the laws?

The quote is right, law isn't just whatever the congressmen decide.

> law isn't just whatever the congressmen decide

That's what it should be and was intended to be by the Founding Fathers. When the judiciary strikes down an unconstitutional law, it is supposed to exactly be because it is not compatible with existing laws or the constitution. 100%.

“A law repugnant to the Constitution is void. An act of Congress repugnant to the Constitution cannot become a law. The Constitution supersedes all other laws and the individual’s rights shall be liberally enforced in favor of him, the clearly intended and expressly designated beneficiary.” –Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803)

Well, since everyone is claiming that with Barrett's nomination that it will turn into a Conservative majority, what does that tell you about what it looks like before that?

Everyone is claiming it will shift it from a 5-4 soft conservative majority, with relatively centrist Bush Jr. appointee John Roberts often siding with the Dem appointees on issues of human rights, immigration, and abortion restrictions, to a 6-3 hard conservative majority that will be well-nigh unbreakable for many years.

It will go from a conservative majority (typically 5-4 on polarizing cases — now 5-3 after Ginsburg’s death) to an entrenched conservative supermajority of 6-3, far less likely to ever render “non-conservative” verdicts on those cases. As you likely know.

Whose positions are unpopular? Last I checked most of the elections are pretty evenly split at the national level (+/- 10%).

Based on polling data, 3/4th if Americans support Roe vs Wade. However, both parties are trying to get elected so they pick a set of options that gives them a significant chance to be elected.

Why such unpopular options can make the cut is people don’t care about issues equally. When a significant minority care a lot about one issue they get patched together with other such groups and you can get elected even if most people disagree with the majority of what you stand for.

Over time identity politics eventually confuses things as people constantly supporting one party tend to adopt the stances of that party. This gets interesting when parties swap position on some issue.

Seems like Roe vs Wade is Closer to 60/40, but regardless, that’s a pretty loaded question. What does overturn mean? Complete ban on abortion? Replace with something else?

When asked if pro-choice/pro-life, Americans are pretty evenly split.[1]

So as per the OP’s comment, which issues are so strongly supported that only party clearly supports them?

Gun control? No.

Welfare reform? No.

Higher spending? No.

I’m genuinely curious.

[1] https://news.gallup.com/poll/1576/abortion.aspx


60% think gun laws should be more strict, 11% think they should be less strict.

Welfare reform and lower spending are not strictly Republican platforms. Reform isn’t a specific policy decision. Also, Republican administrations have seen some of the largest spending increases. Being a believer in small government, free markets, and zero debt I don’t have a clear party favorite.

EX: I firmly believe there should be zero subsides for any industry, as such rebates for installing solar is a bad idea. Flat carbon tax and let the market decide, if “clean” coal can win then it wins.

Ha be really clear dude in this case, in this article it is not both sides. It is solidly the current administration and no one else. Our current party in power has done this.

So to retype what you said more correctly. "I wish the Republicans would realize they are destroying..."

Nobody is destroying anything.

This sounds more like institutional interests being defended by those who work in the institution that is forced to be more efficient. Many will complain, and scream exaggerated warnings. But in the end, it will help to make things better.

Ending things early without warning isn’t being more efficient, it’s simply not finishing the job.

What's being cut short isn't waste but the number of times that a non-responsive house can be visited. It's not some grand excise of waste, it's saying that the administration doesn't want to follow the procedures layout out by the census department to get an accurate count given previous data.

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