Democrats Worry About 2010 Census

Posted July 24, 2008 at 5:58pm

Sixty-six House Democrats, including top party leaders, on Thursday sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez citing “grave” concerns about the planning stages of the 2010 Census. “Serious mismanagement, contractual issues and some unanticipated operational changes” have added an estimated $3 billion to the cost of the process, the letter states. Lawmakers warn the department not to embark on “new unproven strategies, including a sweepstakes or other incentives, in the hopes of enticing more Americans to participate.” These ideas are not only “operationally unsound at this very late date,” but they could “undermine cooperation with the census and all other surveys across the entire government,” the letter states. Instead, in order to ensure accuracy, the department must focus on the most fundamental of tasks, the letter continues. These include raising awareness of the Census, achieving the most complete address list possible, getting high response rates from the Census, and training and employing a diverse work force. The letter warns that the Census is a “constitutionally mandated obligation” and that it factors into the distribution of an estimated $300 billion for programs including Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. The lawmakers say they will be looking to see improvements in contract management, progress reports on the cost and scope of contracts, and reassurance that the Census Bureau can focus on its activities “unfettered of political interference.” The letter is signed by 66 House Democrats, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.). Other signers include Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (Calif.), Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (N.Y.), Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joe Baca (Calif.) and Asian-Pacific American Caucus Chairman Mike Honda (Calif.).