Census Case Has Long-Term Implications for Representational Government
The Trump administration wants the Supreme Court to make an exception to the regular judicial process and decide this spring whether the next census may include a question about citizenship.
The dispute is central to the way representational democracy will play out across the country for a decade, not just in Congress but also in statehouses and at city halls. And the Justice Department says it needs a resolution before the court recesses in late June, so that census forms can be printed in time for the April 2020 national head count.
Asking a citizenship question would likely lower the response rates in immigrant-rich areas, in turn altering the way as many as half a dozen House seats are apportioned among the states. And, while the Constitution mandates that congressional seats be distributed among the states based on total population, states and localities have considerable leeway to consider citizenship when drawing their maps. Also at stake is the allocation every year of tens of billions of dollars in federal aid doled out on the basis of the population count.
The administration says the question is necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act. But 18 states and several cities and jurisdictions, along with civil rights groups, sued to prevent it from being asked, alleging in part that the motive is to dissuade undocumented immigrants from answering the questionnaire. And last week a federal trial judge took their side, ruling that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross broke a "veritable smorgasbord" of rules in overriding career officials who said it would make the census less accurate.
The administration asked the court to review that decision by bypassing the usual intermediate appeals court and holding oral arguments in April or even May.
Ross, meanwhile, has agreed to testify about the census controversy before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on March 14, one of its first high-profile sessions since Democrats took control of the chamber, especially now that President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has called off his appearance.
The paper trail has become the industry standard for giving voters and elections officials confidence that ballots haven't been hacked. Now comes another back-to-the-future move for boosting security and bolstering public confidence in elections: the return of the 10-sided dice.
The quirky toys found in many high school classrooms and role-playing games are part of a pilot program announced this week in Pennsylvania, which is joining a handful of other states in trying out a math-based system for checking the accuracy of election returns.
The "risk-limiting audit" searches for irregularities in vote tallies and relies on some seriously advanced statistical analysis combined with a bit of analog randomness, which is where auditors using those pentagonal trapezohedrons (the dice) at public audit hearings will get involved.
Indiana is not moving nearly assertively enough to upgrade its voting machines so they're less vulnerable to hackers, a nonprofit alleges in a federal lawsuit pressing the state to spend millions more before the presidential election.
At issue is the timetable for eliminating the direct recording electronic, or DRE, voting machines that are in use in 58 of the state's 92 counties. The complaint filed Thursday by Indiana Vote by Mail, which advocates for any array of proposals to give Hoosiers easier access to the ballot box, wants to force the state to replace the paperless devices in the next year with machines that produce a voter-verified paper audit trail.
Indiana for now looks to be among just eight states using paperless balloting in 2020, when President Trump will be counting on its 11 electoral votes. The state last went for the Democratic candidate for president in 2008.