A Bit on the Citizenship Question

The Electronic Privacy Information Center sued Commerce and the Census Bureau in Federal court over the inclusion of a citizenship question in the upcoming census.  EPIC centered its case on the premise that these agencies must explain the impact on privacy of such a question prior to

initiating a collection of new information

when that collection involves electronically stored, personally identifiable information.

The DC Circuit correctly tossed the case on the grounds that EPIC had suffered no harm, so it had no standing to sue.

That’s too bad, though, because EPIC also was wrong on the facts.  Between 1970 and 2010, the Census Bureau, in addition to a short-form census form sent to everyone present in the US, sent a long-form census form to a significant subset of that population, and that long-form version contained the citizenship question.  As recently as 1950, the census included the citizenship question on every form sent out.  As recently as 1960, the census asked after place of birth—which clearly is a citizenship question, since being born under US jurisdiction (vis., in the US, on a US military installation on foreign soil, etc) makes one a citizen.

The conclusion is obvious.  Nor Commerce nor the Census Bureau have any obligation to conduct a “privacy impact” assessment and publish any statement of that impact: Census isn’t collecting new information; it’s merely attempting to resume collecting information it routinely had collected in the recent past.

Separately, I won’t go far into how the 14th Amendment makes the question an absolute necessity, except to point out the following.  Section 2 of the 14th says this [emphasis added]:

But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

While representation is apportioned according to the number of persons present in each State, the sanction for abridging the right to vote is based on citizenship, not mere presence.  (Lest anyone get their panties in a bunch over that “male citizens” part, the 19th Amendment cleared that.)  It’s impossible to carry out that sanction without knowing the number of actual citizens in each State.

And with Progressive-Democrats constantly bleating about voter suppression, the ability to apply that sanction clearly is necessary.

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