Political Interference in the 2020 Census

We've been investigating the rollout of the 2020 census, including the administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question and the misleading mailers sent by the Republican National Committee.
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The Trump administration’s effort to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census — an addition that experts warned would likely depress the response rate and lead to an undercount in minority communities — involved officials from multiple agencies and multiple levels of government. Although the administration claimed asking respondents their citizenship status was necessary to enforce the Voting Rights Act, document releases and public reporting revealed the political motivations behind the question, which was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court in June 2019.

During congressional testimony in early 2018, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had claimed that the Justice Department had requested that his department, which includes the Census Bureau, include the citizenship question. But documents released later that summer in a multistate lawsuit against the administration revealed that Ross himself had actively pushed for it. Then in May 2019, the New York Times reported on a shocking trove of emails from the late Thomas Hofeller, a Republican strategist who had left behind evidence of the partisan motivations behind adding a citizenship question.

Litigation over the question also revealed that anti-immigration hardliner Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, had emailed Ross on July 14, 2017, with suggested wording for the question. We obtained the calendars of Israel Hernandez, then senior adviser and deputy chief of staff at Commerce, which showed on that same day the note “ALERT: Census Document Incoming.”

Additionally, the calendars of Lisa Casias, the Commerce Department’s deputy assistant secretary for administration, show she and Census Bureau official Laura Furgione had a discussion about the census on May 25, 2017 — the day after Commerce official David Langdon sent an email to Census officials saying Ross was “puzzled why citizenship is not included in 2020.”

The Trump administration’s attempts to use the constitutionally authorized decennial census for political and partisan purposes are deeply troubling. American Oversight has filed several Freedom of Information Act requests to shed more light on these efforts, and has sued for records related to the Justice Department’s involvement and for the emails of former Justice Department official John Gore, who provided the official letter to the Census Bureau with the administration’s stated legal reason for adding the question. Gore is among the officials facing allegations of providing false or misleading statements during the course of litigation over the question.

American Oversight has also filed requests for records regarding misleading documents formatted to look like official census forms that were sent by the Republican National Committee to people across the United States. The documents included a lengthy questionnaire, and President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign even sent text messages to some recipients urging them to fill out the form. 

Intromisión Política en el Censo de 2020

Hemos estado investigando el lanzamiento del censo de 2020, incluyendo el intento de la administración de añadir una pregunta sobre ciudadanía y los paquetes engañosos enviados por el Comité Nacional Republicano.

Los esfuerzos de la administración de Trump para añadir una pregunta sobre la ciudadanía al Censo de 2020 — una adición que expertos han advertido probablemente deprimiría la tasa de respuesta y llevaría a un bajo conteo de comunidades minorías — involucro funcionarios de varias agencias y niveles del gobierno. Aunque la administración aseguró que la pregunta era necesaria para hacer cumplir con la Ley de Derecho al Voto, documentos hechos públicos e informes de noticias revelaron las motivaciones políticas detrás de la pregunta, que al final fue bloqueada por la Corte Suprema en junio 2019.

Durante testimonio frente al Congreso a principios de 2018, el Secretario de Comercio Wilbur Ross había afirmado que el Departamento de Justicia había pedido que su departamento, que incluye la Oficina del Censo, incluyera la pregunta sobre ciudadanía. Pero documentos publicados más tarde ese verano en una demanda multiestatal contra la administración revelaron que Ross, él mismo, había presionado el asunto activamente. Luego en mayo 2019, el New York Times publicó un informe impactante sobre un tesoro  de correos electrónicos del fallecido Thomas Hofeller, un estratega Republicano quien había dejado evidencia de motivaciones partisanos detrás de la pregunta sobre ciudadanía. 

Litigación sobre la pregunta también reveló que el intransigente e anti-inmigrante Kris Kobach, ex secretario de estado de Kansas, había enviado un correo electrónico a Ross en el 14 de julio, 2017, con sugerida formulación de la pregunta sobre ciudadanía. Nosotros obtuvimos los calendarios de Israel Hernandez, en ese tiempo el asesor alto y jefe adjunto del gabinete de Comercio, que muestran en ese mismo día la nota “ALERTA: Documento del Censo Entrante.” 

Adicionalmente, los calendarios de Lisa Casias, secretaria asistente adjunta, demuestran que ella y la funcionaria de la Oficina del Censo Laura Furgione tuvieron una discusión sobre el Censo el 25 de mayo, 2017 — el dia despues de que el funcionario de Comercio David Langdon envió un correo electrónico a funcionarios del Censo diciendo que Ross estaba “perplejo porque la ciudadanía no estaba incluida en 2020.” 

Los esfuerzos de la administración de Trump para usar el Censo decenal autorizado constitucionalmente para propósitos políticos y partisanos son profundamente preocupantes. American Oversight ha presentado varias solicitudes de la Ley de Libertad de Información para echar más luz sobre estos esfuerzos, y ha demando para obtener documentos relacionados con el involucramiento del Departamento de Justicia y los correos electrónicos del funcionario del Departamento de Justicia John Gore, quien aportó a la Oficina del Censo la carta oficial con la razón legal de la administración para añadir la pregunta. Gore es uno de los funcionarios enfrentando alegaciones de proveer declaraciones falsas o erróneas a lo largo del litigio sobre la pregunta. 

American Oversight también ha presentado solicitudes por registros sobre documentos engañosos formateados para aparecer como formularios oficiales del Censo que fueron enviados por el Comité Nacional Republicano a gente a través de los Estado Unidos. Los documentos contenían un cuestionario largo, y hasta la campaña de Trump envió mensajes de textos urgiendo a personas a llenar el formulario. 

Related Documents

November 19, 2020

FOIA to Commerce Seeking Communications About Counting Immigrants in Census

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau Seeking Communications About Counting Immigrants in Census

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
November 19, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau Seeking Communications Around Counting Immigrants in the Census

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
November 18, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau Seeking Directives Sent to Regional Field Offices

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
November 12, 2020

FOIA to Commerce Inspector General for Records Reflecting Complaints Made by Census Enumerators

Commerce Office of the Inspector General, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 30, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau for External Emails of Recent Political Appointees

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 23, 2020

FOIA to Commerce Seeking Communications of Key Officials Under Secretary Ross

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 23, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau Seeking Communications of Key Census Bureau Officials

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 15, 2020

Records Request to Commerce and Census Bureau Seeking Directives Regarding Counting People Experiencing Homelessness

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 15, 2020

Records Request to Commerce Seeking Assessments Regarding Impact of Asking People Experiencing Homelessness About Citizenship Status

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 15, 2020

Records Request to Commerce and Census Bureau Seeking Directives Regarding the Counting of Residents in Domestic Violence Shelters

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 9, 2020

FOIA to Commerce for Directives Related to White House Memo Excluding Undocumented Immigrants from Census Count

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 9, 2020

FOIA to Commerce for White House Communications Around Counting Immigrants in Census

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 9, 2020

FOIA to the Census Bureau for White House Communications About Counting Immigrants in Census

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 9, 2020

FOIA to Commerce Seeking Communications About Counting Immigrants in Census

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 9, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau Seeking Communications Around Counting Immigrants in Census

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 7, 2020

FOIA to Commerce Seeking Records Regarding Maximum Attempts for Census Count

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 7, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau Seeking Directives and Communications Regarding Maximum Attempts for Census Count

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 7, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau for Communications with the White House

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 7, 2020

FOIA to Commerce for Analyses of Early Census Cutoff Date

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
October 7, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau for Analyses of Early Cutoff Date

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
September 29, 2020

No Records Response from Census Bureau Regarding Communications with External Individuals

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
Agency Reply
August 11, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau Seeking Calendars of Political Appointees

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
July 31, 2020

Complaint: American Oversight v. Census Bureau and Commerce – 2020 Census Implementation

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
Litigation
July 31, 2020

FOIA to the Census Bureau Seeking Emails with the White House Regarding Covid-19

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
July 31, 2020

FOIA to the Census Bureau Seeking Directives and Guidance Relating to Covid-19

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
July 31, 2020

FOIA to the Census Bureau Seeking External Email Communications Regarding Covid-19

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
July 22, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Legal Analysis Regarding the President’s Memorandum Directing that Undocumented Immigrants Not Be Counted in the Census

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
July 22, 2020

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Records Regarding the President’s Memorandum Directing that Undocumented Immigrants Not Be Counted in the Census

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
June 29, 2020

No Records Response from Census Bureau Regarding Emails Between Agency Officials and Stephen Miller

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
Agency Reply
June 4, 2020

Opinion and Order: NAACP v. DOJ – Census Citizenship Question

Department of Justice
Litigation
May 29, 2020

FOIA to Commerce Seeking Secretary Ross’s Communications with Senator McConnell

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
May 29, 2020

FOIA to Commerce Seeking Communications with External Individuals and Entities

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
May 29, 2020

FOIA to the Census Bureau Seeking Sent Communications Regarding Coronavirus

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
May 5, 2020

FOIA to State Seeking Records Related to Any Office Renovations by Ambassador Lana Marks

Department of State
FOIA Request
April 6, 2020

FOIA to the Census Bureau Seeking Communications with the White House Related to Coronavirus

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
April 6, 2020

FOIA to the Census Bureau Seeking Directives Related to Coronavirus

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
April 6, 2020

FOIA to the Census Bureau Seeking Communications with External Individuals

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
April 6, 2020

FOIA to the Census Bureau Seeking Communications with External Organizations

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
April 1, 2020

USDA Rural Development Calendars for Senior Officials

Department of Agriculture
Agency Record
March 16, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau Seeking Communications with the RNC

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
March 16, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau Seeking Communications with the Trump Reelection Campaign

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
March 16, 2020

FOIA to Census Bureau Seeking Communications with the White House

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
November 8, 2019

FOIA to Census Bureau for Emails Between Agency Officials and Stephen Miller

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
September 23, 2019

FOIA to to the Census Bureau Seeking Information Regarding Political Appointees

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
August 2, 2019

No Records Response from DOJ Regarding Communications with Thomas Hofeller and Mark Neuman

Department of Justice
Agency Reply
July 9, 2019

FOIA to Census Bureau Seeking Communications with Thomas Hofeller and Mark Neuman

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
July 9, 2019

FOIA to Commerce Seeking Communications with Thomas Hofeller and Mark Neuman

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
July 9, 2019

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications with Thomas Hofeller and Mark Neuman

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
April 22, 2019

FOIA to Census Seeking Political Appointee Resumes and Calendars

Commerce - Census Bureau, Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
April 5, 2019

Commerce Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration Lisa Casias’s Calendar

Department of Commerce
Agency Record
March 15, 2019

FOIA to Commerce Seeking Communications of Kevin Quinley

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
February 14, 2019

Commerce Department Calendars for Israel Hernandez

Department of Commerce
Agency Record
October 12, 2018

Complaint: NAACP LDF v DOJ – Census Citizenship Question

Department of Justice
Litigation
October 4, 2018

FOIA to the U.S. Census Bureau Seeking Communications with Outside Entities

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
May 17, 2018

Census Bureau Records Regarding IT Readiness for 2020 Census

Department of Commerce
Agency Record
March 14, 2018

FOIA to Commerce Regarding 2020 Census

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request