The Trump administration, running the executive branch like a three-card monte game, is trying to pull another fast one. Its next step in replacing majority-ruled government with a permanent, authoritarian plutocracy was unveiled yesterday. As we all chuffed over firing of FBI director James Comey, we were distracted from the resignation of John Thompson, Director of the Bureau of Census, over Congressional refusal to fund the 2020 Census adequately.
The seeds of 2020 electoral manipulation are being sown at the Department of Commerce. John Thompson had been with the Bureau since 1975. He tendered his resignation on May 10, ahead of his plan to retire at year-end. “Your experience will be greatly missed,” wrote Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, as he booted Thompson out the door with his size 9 brogan. Or as the late songwriter Dan Hicks put it, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” So it is with Thompson. Ross gladly will miss Thompson’s knowledge of the logistics of obtaining an accurate census.
By Constitutional mandate the census is taken every decade, and the numbers are used to determine the number of districts in each state. In turn, the number of districts determines the state’s number of electors. The number of electors in each state is equal to the congressional delegation, which is the number of representatives in the House and Senate combined. The seats in Congress are reapportioned based on the census. Then each state legislature hacks itself into districts to match the number allocated by the census. This is where gerrymandering comes into play. Eldridge Gerry, a founder, became famous for reshaping the districts of Massachusetts in 1810 to maintain dominance of his party. One district took the shape of a salamander. Hence, the term, gerrymandering,” representing the manipulation of a district’s shape to affect the political outcome.
If the underlying principle of democracy is “one person, one vote,” then getting the number of persons correct is a paramount concern. Yet, John Thompson was struggling with Congress to get more funding from Congress to modernize the data collection process.
The Republican-controlled Congress saw no reason to upgrade the data collection system if it would cost more than the 2010 collection. That’s where they drew the monetary line, even though the new electronic data collection system was proposed as the investment in long-term cost-cutting measures. Congress was happy with the 2010 results, and it saw no reason to ramp up the system. Hacking the census is another means of keeping American leadership in the hands of old, conservative white men. Some of the House members have requests in to use the old-style printouts to make Snoopy pictures for their kids.
Voter suppression takes many forms, and misreporting of the census is fundamental. Errors in the raw numbers skew the apportionment of representatives so that it is effectively beyond the reach of legal action. In other words, counting heads is a political function. If we get that wrong, the error taints all that follows.
Most of the alleged anti-voting fraud laws enacted in the last few years have been overturned. Still, Congress repealed a vital part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In addition, many state legislatures have shown the inclination to suppress voting claiming fraud as a pretext. The party in power in a state with a growing non-establishment population base has an incentive to minimize its impact on voting. The less reliable and transparent the counting system, the greater the possibility for mischief. No doubt, the Congressional majority would be happy with a back-of-the-envelope tally. So what if a couple of people – or neighborhoods or – cities are under-reported?
© 2017 Revolted Colonies