Controversial Academic Named To Census Panel In Waning Days Of Trump

A 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident, is shown in Detroit, Sunday, April 5, 2020. The Census Bureau is required by federal statute to send the president the counts that will be used to carve up congressional districts — known as apportionment — and draw state legislative districts by Dec. 31. The new coronavirus COVID-19 spread forced the U.S. Census Bureau to suspend field operations (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
This April 5, 2020, photo shows a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident in Detroit. The U.S. Census Bureau needs more time to wrap up the once-a-decade count because of the coronavirus, opening the possibility... This April 5, 2020, photo shows a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident in Detroit. The U.S. Census Bureau needs more time to wrap up the once-a-decade count because of the coronavirus, opening the possibility of delays in drawing new legislative districts that could help determine what political party is in power, what laws pass or fail and whether communities of color get a voice in their states. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) MORE LESS
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November 23, 2020 5:02 p.m.

Thomas Brunell — a controversial redistricting researcher who was floated and then withdrawn from consideration to lead the Census Bureau earlier in the Trump administration — has been named to an advisory committee for the census, according to a person familiar with the appointment.

The installation of Brunell — who published a book in 2008 called “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America” — ratifies concerns that the census is being politicized even in the waning days of the Trump administration.

The committee Brunell is being named to, the Census Scientific Advisory Committee, meets once or twice a year usually and gives recommendations for how the Census Bureau should carry out its key functions. Brunell’s term on the committee will last until November 2023.

When word got out Brunell was being considered in 2017 to lead the Bureau, his apparent lack of relevant statistical or government experience drew criticisms from census stakeholders, including the civil rights community.

Brunell’s expertise has been used in Republicans redistricting efforts, according to 2017 Politico story about his name being floated for the director job. He’s also been critical of measures like sampling that the Census Bureau has looked into to improve its enumeration of hard-to-count communities.

Brunell is currently a professor of political science at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The Bureau confirmed Brunell’s appointment in a statement Wednesday that called him a “well-recognized scholar in electoral studies, legislative redistricting, and the usage of census data.”

Additionally, the statement announced that that William Clark, an associate dean at the Pennsylvania State University Graduate School, had been named to the panel.

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