Lawmakers Turn Watchful Eye on Census

Posted September 26, 2009 at 7:42am

With the 2010 Census approaching, both parties are devoting increasing energy levels to an issue that has already drawn the ire of Members of Congress, whose districts could be reallocated following the count.The just-completed nationwide canvassing effort to prepare for next year’s census ran $80 million more than expected, an issue Census Director Robert Groves is expected to discuss when he testifies Oct. 7 before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management. Meanwhile, Groves canceled the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now’s role as a volunteer partner in next year’s census. The ACORN partnership drew heated criticism from Republicans, who charge the grass-roots organization engaged in voter fraud during the 2008 elections and renewed their opposition following the release of a video showing ACORN staffers advising a couple posing as a pimp and a prostitute on how to commit fraud.Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who has been focused mostly on health care reform as a member of the Finance Committee, will lead the Oct. 7 hearing. He said he is confident the census will successfully be under way by April but is concerned that the canvassing costs ran so much higher than expected. Republicans have voiced growing concerns this year that the census, which determines allocation of Congressional districts as well as the disbursement of government funds, will grow into a partisan process under the Obama administration. It appeared headed that way when a GOP hold on Groves kept his nomination lingering in the Senate for weeks after his confirmation hearing, and the recent dust-up with ACORN has only fueled fears of partisanship. Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who faces a tough re-election fight next year and hails from a state with a fast-growing population, introduced legislation last week that would require the census to include a question on citizenship status for the purpose of apportionment. “The reality is that the current system is broken and unfair,— Bennett said in a statement. “It does not make any sense for congressional seats and the Electoral College to be determined by a process that unfairly provides the advantage to those communities with high illegal populations.—Such a partisan bill faces a dim future in a Senate where Democrats control 60 seats.