U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) have signed on to legislation meant to shore up the Census by mandating additional reports and preventing unstudied changes.
The Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (Census IDEA) Act, introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), would ban changes that have “not been properly researched, studied, and tested at least three years prior to the next decennial census date” and submitted to Congress. The legislation would also require additional reports on the Census Bureau’s operational plans.
“The decennial census plays an instrumental role in shaping the logistics of our democracy by determining political representation, as well as the fair distribution of federal resources to critical state programs,” Cardin said in a news release this week.
The legislation, originally crafted in 2018 in response to the Trump administration’s attempt to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, failed to pass before the decennial count got underway.
Trump later attempted to exclude undocumented immigrants from reapportionment counts, leading Maryland and other states to join a federal lawsuit to stop the maneuver. The Census Bureau reportedly stopped working on Trump’s memo earlier this year.
“Under the last administration, we saw that presidential appointees were eager to politicize the Census with an unconstitutional question on citizenship,” Schatz said in a separate news release earlier this week. “While we were able to stop that attempt, we need more protections to stop any kind of political inference in the future.”
Van Hollen underscored the importance of the Census count in Maryland, and said the IDEA Act would prevent “partisan stunts” from affecting the count.
“In the most recent census, Maryland stood to lose $18,000 in federal funds over ten years for every uncounted resident,” Van Hollen said. “President Trump’s attempts to skew the results of the census for his own party’s political gain not only posed a risk to Maryland, but to our whole country.”
Maryland retained eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives according to apportionment counts from the Census Bureau, but state officials are still awaiting more specific data to begin the redistricting process. That data was delayed after the COVID-19 pandemic waylaid the Census count, with untabulated data set to release in August.
State officials have said they’ll need roughly four weeks after the data is released to adjust the information to comply with Maryland law and have incarcerated people reallocated to their last known address.