The Census Bureau was not involved in the creation of a new Trump policy that will allow the 2020 count to be used to boost the electoral advantage of white rural voters, according to the Wednesday testimony of its top official.
Asked at a House hearing whether he or other Census Bureau officials provided input on the policy, Director Steve Dillingham said he “certainly” did not, nor was he aware of anyone else at the bureau contributing to it.
That answer, however, included a caveat. In June the White House installed two new political appointees at the bureau — an extraordinary move given that there are usually only only four or five political appointees at the bureau total.
Dillingham said he couldn’t speak to their actions prior to them joining the bureau.
The two appointees, Nathaniel Cogley and Adam Korzeniewski, who were at the Commerce Department prior to the shift, have questionable backgrounds for their current senior bureau roles that included very partisan activity.
President Trump last week ordered the bureau to remove undocumented immigrants from the count from the 2020 census that will be used to determine how many House seats each state gets. That will decrease the amount of congressional representation in diverse, immigrant-rich states get and increase the representation for the whiter, more rural parts of the country.
The policy faces an uphill battle in the courts. There are also many questions about its feasibility, as the Census Bureau will have to use existing government records to determine the number of undocumented immigrants in each state.
Earlier in the hearing, former Census Bureau directors testified they were concerned that the extra work being imposed on the bureau was jeopardizing the accuracy of the count, particularly as the bureau also faces major challenges with the pandemic.
Dillingham said that was not “formally” made aware of the new policy until Trump issued that memo. He only initially found out that the plan was in the works when it was publicly reported a few days prior to that announcement.
“I was waiting to learn more,” Dillingham said, recalling when he learned from the media that the Trump administration was working on the policy.