The 2010 Census has already been front-page news, igniting angry partisan controversies involving Cabinet nominees, potential third-party contractors and even statistical methodology. Little attention has been paid, however, to the Congressional redistricting that will follow and to the abuses that have become inherent in the process.
In dozens of states across the country, politicians will quite literally be sitting down to select their constituents instead of the other way around. And those constituents will be stuck with those decisions for a decade. This is not the democracy that is taught in civics classes across this great nation.
With that process once again so close at hand, it is more urgent than ever that the American people demand that Congress fix this broken system and curb the abuses of gerrymandering that engineer predetermined political outcomes.
Each state has the authority and responsibility to design a Congressional district map that will best serve its citizens, drawn according to population, geography and federal voting rights laws, including the Voting Rights Act. We share the view of many that these district lines should not, however, be drawn to benefit certain candidates or political parties.
We will introduce legislation this week to reform the redistricting process. The Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act would limit redistricting to once a decade, after census data is available, to be carried out by an independent commission made up of bipartisan appointees. Our legislation will be similar to legislation originally proposed in the 109th Congress and that we sponsored in the 110th Congress.
It will not be easy to convince our colleagues to reform a process that often helps ensure their re-election. The push, therefore, must come from outside organizations and grass-roots approaches. Americans for Redistricting Reform and the groups in it, including the League of Women Voters, the Brennan Center for Justice, U.S. PIRG, the Committee for Economic Development, the Campaign Legal Center and the Republican Main Street Partnership, are strong advocates for fixing our broken system. Other organizations from across the political spectrum have joined us in this fight and will continue to decry the implications of a broken system.
Our Founding Fathers wisely knew the American people needed a legislative body directly responsive to their interests. By their vision, the House of Representatives was to be the only federal entity elected directly by the people (Senators were originally selected by state legislatures). They designed the House’s two-year election cycle to make Members directly and immediately accountable to the electorate.
Over time, however, many involved in the system have learned to manipulate it. Gerrymandered district lines, in effect, silence the voices of those who disagree with them politically. Too often, the process today utilizes advanced mapping technology, along with polling and party affiliation data, to draw district lines that protect incumbents and weaken the voice of each district’s minority party.
The judicial system has effectively sanctioned this culture of gerrymandering with various rulings permitting blatant partisan power grabs. A 2006 Supreme Court ruling essentially gave state legislatures freedom to redistrict anytime they want — even in the middle of a decade — for whatever purpose they want, including pure political gain.
Currently districts are engineered with impunity to protect incumbents, with voters’ voices diluted as they are packed together to achieve partisan ends. The resulting preordained outcome feeds citizen apathy, drives down voter turnout, depresses competition and entrenches incumbents who are protected from real competition and real accountability at the polls. The only serious challenges to these “safe seats” come from the extreme wings of their own parties, only serving to further polarize Congress.
Under this system, many Members of Congress are more beholden to a partisan base than to solution-oriented pragmatism. The outcome is a polarized political atmosphere where few are willing to work together in the political center, where most Americans reside.
Unfortunately, the public outrage that is still mustered over partisan gerrymanders builds and crests as the voters are divvied up by politicians every 10 years. By the time the next census comes along, the public, and even the media, is not paying much attention until it is too late.
America’s disaffected voters have been missing from this movement to reform the process, but their voices will be necessary to change the system. Most Americans today do not realize the negative impact many years of gerrymandering has had on Congress’ ability to accomplish the nation’s common goals.
Even as we face the greatest economic challenges most Americans have ever lived through, polarization and gridlock brought on by gerrymandering has limited Congress’ ability to address the issues with effectiveness, common sense and bipartisanship. The time to act is now, before the next election (the last before the census) is upon us and it is too late. We are asking our colleagues, our allies and the American people to help us to rectify this grave miscarriage of democracy.
Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’
According to the Minnesota Independent, “Rep. Michele Bachmann told the Washington Times on Wednesday that she will not be filling out all the questions on next year’s census because ACORN will be one of the federal government’s many community partners for conducting the census. But what she is proposing to do is illegal, the Times reports.
“I know for my family the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home,” she said. “We won’t be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond that.”
“There’s great concern that’s being raised because now ACORN has been named as one of the federal partners… This is very concerning because the motherload of all data comes from the census,” she said.
But as the paper reports, Bachmann is “misreading” the law — and it could cost her family $100 per question left unanswered.”
NOTE: Below, please find an audio recording of Bachmann’s interview with The Washington Times.
UPDATE: MyTwoCensus Scooped The NY Times: Editorial: The U.S. Senate Must Confirm Robert Groves ASAPSunday, June 7th, 2009
UPDATE: MyTwoCensus scooped The New York Times. Check out their editorial, written 24 hours after ours!
Even though Robert Groves’ confirmation hearing to become the next director of the U.S. Census Bureau took place more than three weeks ago (23 days to be precise), the United States Senate still has not scheduled a vote to confirm Mr. Groves for his new position. This unnecessary delay is just another example of the bureaucratic nightmare that has long been (and most likely will always be) the United States Congress’s lackadaisical work schedule.
MyTwoCensus believes that Senator Tom Carper and his colleagues on the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security that is responsible for the 2010 Census must urge the rest of the Senate to schedule an immediate vote to confirm Mr. Groves. For each day that Robert Groves is not officially in charge of the Census Bureau, the American people lose out on the possibility of achieving the most organized and best managed decennial headcount possible. A ship without a captain is bound to run into serious problems, and the Census Bureau is no different.
After weeks of discussion that Caribbean Americans and the legislators who vouch for them are seeking to create a new “Caribbean” category on the 2010 Census form, another group has come out of the woodwork to seek space to display their own unique identity: Dominicans.
According to the Dominican Today newspaper, “Dominican residents in the United States launched a nationwide campaign to be included in the 2010 Census, under the auspices of the Dominican Round Table in
which several organizations, elected and government officials take part.
The campaign was announced in a gathering in the Bronx’s San Nicolas Tolentino church, in which City Council and State Assembly members spoke about the initiative.
The strategy seeks to prevent what took place in 2000, when Dominican residents in the U.S. were excluded from the boxes regarding ethnicity of that country’s census. If excluded, Dominican community organizations wouldn’t receive the funds necessary to sustain their social programs.
The campaign “One plus One” also includes Puerto Rico, where several hundred thousand Dominican nationals also reside and demands that the Federal Census Bureau include a box specifying the word “Dominican,” which didn’t figure in the previous census.”
MyTwoCensus wholeheartedly agrees that an “accurate” count means getting as much specific information as possible. We feel that the government should want to know the specific makeup of its people because this knowledge will serve many purposes down the road. For example, knowing the ethnic/national composition of people in a specific area would make it easier and more cost efficient to arrange social services and other benefits for more highly targeted groups of people.
And for the many Americans who identify with more than one ethnic background, people can check off a box for each nationality/ethnicity that represents them.
Since filling out the 2010 Census form is required by law, MyTwoCensus sees many benefits to making this portion of the survey more comprehensive. We don’t believe that sharing additional background information infringes on any individuals’ right to privacy.
Though the 2010 Census is just around the corner, there is still time to improve the paper forms before they are printed. We urge Robert Groves and the U.S. Congress to prioritize this issue and not let petty political bickering stand in the way of taking action to create a form for the 2010 headcount that maximizes the amount of relevant information that it can gather in its 10 short questions.
Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke sat down with The Chicago Tribune for an interview…unfortunately the interview revealed nothing that we haven’t already heard 200,000 times:
WASHINGTON — The third time was the charm for Gary Locke, a former governor of Washington state who was tapped as commerce secretary after President Barack Obama’s first two choices pulled out. In an interview, he discussed the 2010 census.
Q Tell us what models you’re developing to ensure that all ethnic groups and minorities are accurately counted in next year’s census.
A Well, for the first time, we will be sending our forms in different languages and specifically in Spanish. So populations, communities with a large Hispanic population, will actually receive a census questionnaire. We’re going to be very specific. From past information, we know, for instance, in which parts of Houston there’s a large Vietnamese population. We know where in Los Angeles … in the Southwest, we have large populations, blocks of Hispanic families, and so we’re going to be very strategic and very targeted.
Q Will you, in part, rely on (popu- lation) sampling, even though the Republicans are dead-set against it?
A The United States Supreme Court has actually ruled that we are not allowed to use sampling apportionment. Nor do we have any plans to use sampling for any other purpose connected with the 2010 census.
Q Every White House has tried to play a role in the census. What will be this White House’s role in the census?
A The census director reports to me, and, of course, I serve at the pleasure of the president. … It will not be politicized, and the White House assured me that it has no interest in politicizing it.
Last night, The Wall Street Journal published a blog post by June Kronholz about the likelihood of being counted in the 2010 Census. As the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 Census, MyTwoCensus must point out that this article is written from a very partisan perspective. Kronholz’s only source of data was information collected by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and released by The Census Project. Kronholz writes, “The [census counting] estimates were developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, using Census Bureau planning databases, and released by the Census Project whose members include policy planners, demographers and citizen-rights advocates.”
If you look at The Census Project’s stakeholder list, it’s clear that all of the stakeholders are liberal advocacy groups, and more importantly, one of the “stakeholders” (which translates to meaning an organization that funds The Census Project) is The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the very organization responsible for providing this data…So here’s our advice when reading articles, even from reputable news sources:
1. Read between the lines.
2. Take any information from “The Census Project” with a large grain of salt, as it’s coming from many partisan sources including ACORN, the NAACP, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and other immigrant advocacy groups.