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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Census

Ticket Replay: Census map: Watch Americans procrastinate now

Map

During the holiday season, as in years past, The Ticket is republishing some of our favorite items from the previous political year. This story was originally published on March 26, 2010:

Way to suck up, Montana, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

Those four Northern states are the only ones that have broken into the 40% range of census participation as of Friday.

The government has put together an interactive map that shows how responsive the people in each state and county are with returning their census forms. National participation is at 29%, with the April 1 deadline less than a week away.

The Census Bureau is using a new criteria for measurement this year. Called "mail participation rate," it only counts the forms filled out and returned from households where people actually live. Previously, "mail response rate" would also factor in unoccupied houses.

Drilling down to the county level, we can see that Mariposa County, at 41%, is the sole goody two shoes in California, making the rest of us look bad. Why don't you go do some homework, Mariposa County?

It's a little embarrassing how much entertainment we're getting out of this map. Now, all we need is a ticker to track all of the questionable expenses people try to write off their taxes.

-- Mark Milian

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Conservatives target census -- and hurt their own cause?

Official U.S. Census 2010 form, by Getty
 
Every year since 1790, the U.S. government has counted its people. In recent years, the census has sparked charges, especially among Latinos, that their communities were under-counted because of language difficulties and fear that census takers were interested in rooting out illegal immigrants.

But this year, fear about the government's intentions is coming not only from liberals concerned about minority under-counting and a form that does not consider Hispanics a racial category, but from conservatives worried about invasion of privacy.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) stoked the controversy last year when she warned Americans not to fill out any information on the 2010 census except for the question that asks how many people reside in each household. Her concern: The U.S. government could start rounding up citizens, as it did  Japanese Americans during World War II, and put them in internment camps.

The call has been taken up by other conservatives, like Fox News' Glenn Beck.

“The census has become a lightning rod, and it’s drawing people’s attention to the danger of....

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Census map: Watch America procrastinate NOW

Map

Way to suck up, Montana, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

Those four Northern states are the only ones that have broken into the 40% range of census participation as of Friday.

The government has put together an interactive map that shows how responsive the people in each state and county are with returning their census forms. National participation is at 29%, with the April 1 deadline less than a week away.

The Census Bureau is using a new criteria for measurement this year. Called "mail participation rate," it only counts the forms filled out and returned from households where people actually live. Previously, "mail response rate" would also factor in unoccupied houses.

Drilling down to the county level, we can see that Mariposa County, at 41%, is the sole goody two shoes in California, making the rest of us look bad. Why don't you go do some homework, Mariposa County?

It's a little embarrassing how much entertainment we're getting out of this map. Now, all we need is a ticker to track all of the questionable expenses people try to write off their taxes.

-- Mark Milian

Click this link to receive Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or follow us @latimestot. You can also go to our new Facebook fan page here.

Will Republicans snub the 2010 census?

Census form

The big bold lettering on those missives from the Census Bureau is clear enough: “U.S. Census Form Enclosed. YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.”

But if a poll released this week is any guide, some Americans want, as the Great Garbo said, to be left alone — especially if they’re Republicans. At least that’s one thing that can be gleaned from a new Zogby Interactive poll.

We don’t know whether folks knew about the dire “required by law” warning before they participated in the survey, so we can’t quite say scads of Republicans are preparing to defy federal law. But here’s what we do know.

Zogby found that 80% of Republican respondents said they would complete the 2010 Census form, 8% said they would not and 12% weren’t sure.

Almost all Democratic respondents, 95%, said they’d participate in the census, with 4% saying no and 2% saying “not sure.” In all three categories, independents fell in between Democrats and Republicans.

Lawmakers across the country, and L.A’s own mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, have urged constituents to fill out the form, noting that the decennial tally

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Utah pushes census to count Mormon missionaries

Mormon missionaries

Well, here’s a census controversy we hadn’t counted on.

Usually, when the Census Bureau gets embroiled in a political spat — and it seems to do that every 10 years — it’s usually over how to tally the homeless or undocumented immigrants.

But this controversy centers on Utah and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Officials there are in a dither because the bureau won’t count all those Mormon missionaries sent overseas. The Salt Lake Tribune recently explained what’s up:

This isn’t simply a quibble over statistics. The decennial population count is vitally important for states because a bigger population means more members of Congress and more tax money.

In the most recent Census, taken in 2000, Utah fell just 857 people short of receiving the last available U.S. House seat and this discrepancy in how Americans are counted overseas made all the difference.

One less congressman for a lack of 857 residents? That’s right. And, from the Utah perspective, it gets even worse when one considers North Carolina, which claimed the 435th seat in the House in large part because of the state’s military bases. Again, the Tribune explains:

The Census included the overseas military in 1970, 1990 and 2000 because of congressional pressure. The Bureau has made previous attempts to count all Americans abroad, but that population has never been used to apportion House seats.

Utah took the Census Bureau to court about all this but got rebuffed by the Supreme Court. So now Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, joined by fellow Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, has introduced a bill that would compel the Census Bureau to allow for Americans living overseas to be counted in the decennial census.

 “The Census Bureau could fix this problem right now and count Americans abroad, but they refuse to and are sitting on their hands until Congress makes them do this,” Bishop said in a statement this summer. “It seems there is no other solution other than mandating that the Census Bureau change their policy immediately.”

-- Steve Padilla

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Photo: Mormon missionaries on the move. Credit: Los Angeles Times  

Count Rep. Michele Bachmann as unwilling to be counted in the census

You’d think that after all the endless election hullabaloo over Minnesota trying to fill its second senatorial seat, the North Star State would be sick of counting quibbles.

You’d be wrong.

It turns out that the prospect of trying to count Minnesota’s population in the 2010 Census has turned into a political issue, with Rep. Michele Bachmann standing firm on her stance that she won’t fill out the entire census form.

The reason? The Republican lawmaker says the form violates the public’s constitutionally protected right to privacy. She has said, time and again, that the U.S. Constitution requires her to give the Census Bureau little more than the number of people in her household. Republican representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota

“A lot of Americans -- myself included -- have real concerns about the ultimate protection of our sensitive personal information,” Bachmann said in a statement issued earlier this month.

OK. That seems reasonable. But in an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune last month, the paper quoted the lawmaker as saying she was “not encouraging Americans not to fill out the census.”

OK. Now that’s a bit wacky.

Now, let’s put this into perspective. Bachmann has a loooooooong history of making people gasp when she opens her mouth.

It was Bachmann, after all, who appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews” last fall and made a million-dollar mistake:

She alleged that presidential candidate Barack Obama may hold “anti-American” views, and proposed a media investigation into “the views of the people in Congress [to] find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?” (Her rival reaped more than $1 million in donations in less than 72 hours -- but still lost the election.)

But in Washington, as well as in the land of Minnesota nice, Bachmann’s unwavering stance against completing the entire census form -- and not just the parts she wants to fill out -- has folks fuming.

Three of her fellow GOP lawmakers -- Reps. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, John Mica from Florida and Patrick McHenry of North Carolina -- have slammed Bachmann for her stance, saying in a statement that her boycott is illogical and illegal.

And Sen. Amy Klobuchar is stepping forward to urge Minnesotans to fill out the form. The Democrat pointed out that Minnesota could potentially lose a congressional seat if the census results are inaccurately low.

“It’s important that every Minnesotan is counted, so we get our fair share of congressional seats and federal funding,” Klobuchar said in a statement.

Bachmann isn’t swayed. Instead, she’s cosponsored a bill (HR-3131) that would make filling out the census form a voluntary act and only require four tidbits of data: name, date, contact information and the number of people living or staying at the same address.

Given how hard-hit state budgets have been this year by the recession, and how desperate lawmakers are to funnel federal aid back home, good luck getting folks on board with this one.

-- P.J. Huffstutter

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Photo: Bachmann at the Republican National Convention in 2008. Credit: Associated Press

Some Latinos, angry at Obama and Congress, threatening to boycott census

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson campaigns for Barack Obama among Latino voters

The Senate this week confirmed Robert Groves, a former census official and sociology professor at the University of Michigan, to run the Census Bureau. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke pronounced him ''a respected social scientist who will run the Census Bureau with integrity and independence.''

The appointment will hardly still controversy over the 2010 census.

To guarantee the most accurate count of the 300 million or so Americans, federal officials promise confidentiality. But now a group of Latino clergymen is charging that widely published census data is being used to crack down on illegal immigrants. And they're calling on people in the country illegally not to answer the census.

"Law enforcement has been very effective in areas where the data of census 2000 has been used," said Rev. Miguel Rivera, head of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, a Washington-D.C.-based group of 20,000 churches, many of them storefronts serving undocumented workers.

Required by the U.S. Constitution, the census is used to apportion seats in Congress. With residents leaving amid a fiscal meltdown, California could lose a congressional seat. With new residents moving in, Utah or North Carolina could gain. And, beyond the politics of the thing, the census is also used to apportion more than $300 billion in federal dollars to states and cities. So, high stakes all around.

Disappointed that President Obama has not pushed harder for immigration reform to help the estimated 12 million undocumented Latinos in the country, Rivera told NPR that he hopes a boycott will put pressure on Congress to do just that. "If they don't want [a loss of]  funding for their constituents, maybe losing seats at the congressional level, then what they have to do is roll their sleeves and move forward with comprehensive immigration reform," he said.

Los Angeles activist Nativo Lopez is trying to convince the group he heads, the Mexican American Political Assn., to endorse the boycott. Latinos -- who helped elect Obama -- feel betrayed, he said, believing that despite great campaign rhetoric, the Obama White House is just continuing the Bush crackdown on illegal immigration while ignoring the impact of the recession on undocumented workers.

"There is no incentive for me to cooperate with the federal government to conduct this count unless we get relief from the federal government on the types of issues that are devastating our families socially and economically," he said.

In North Carolina, where a Latino undercount could seriously damage the state's chances of getting another congressional seat, Roy Crisanto, pastor of El Tabernaculo De La Uncion, a Pentecostal church, is telling members to join the boycott.

“The government wants to count people,” Crisanto told the Charlotte Observer, “but not give them the benefits that come with being counted.”

Other Latino groups are gearing up to fight the boycott, fearing that it could undermine the very count that helps the community with needed funds.

Arturo Vargas, head of the National Assn. of Latino Elected Officials, called the boycott "irresponsible," reminding his colleagues that an undercount would affect funding and representation for a decade.

"The irony is that the enemies of immigration reform, this is what they want," Vargas told the Wall Street Journal. "They don't want these people counted."

Catholic bishops have also joined the be-counted campaign. "It is important to get the word out because some of the populations we serve tend to normally be undercounted," said San Antonio's Archbishop Jose Gomez, an official in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "The U.S. Census is a useful tool for learning about God's people, who and where they are, and many other facts that shed light on their lives, possibilities and struggles."

Census forms are to be mailed out in the spring. Between now and then, look for this debate to rev up.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo:  New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson speaks to Latino voters during a rally in Denver in October. Credit: Associated Press

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Republican Gregg pulls name from Obama's Commerce job

New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg has withdrawn his name from Commerce secretary nomination in a Barack Obama cabinet

Well, back to the drawing board on a Commerce secretary for President Obama. (He's speaking in Peoria at this moment and may not even know it's official yet; his press folks certainly didn't.)

But New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg has just withdrawn his name from the already-announced nomination to be the new secretary of Commerce. He cites irresolvible differences with his potential boss over the economic stimulus package and with the Census, which has now been moved over to White House control.

Bye-bye bi-bipartisanship.

Here's how Gregg himself put it moments ago:

"It has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me, as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns."

A philosophical gap over fundamental issues. In GOP circles recently, grumbling grew louder over the move of Census from Gregg's would-be department to the White House to satisfy Latino and other Democratic concerns, as The Ticket reported here Monday. But as one Republican operative put it Wednesday, "How would it go over if President Bush had put the Census under Karl Rove?"

Gregg's withdrawal (see our news video by scrolling down or click on the "Read more" line below) also walks on Obama's economic stimulus message of the day, from his visit to Illinois to talk down the economy at Caterpillar, while praising his GOP secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and then by celebrating No. 1 Republican Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday in Springfield later.

Gregg's departure before officially arriving also gives political cover to all the other Hill Republicans who've been opposing Obama on actual ideological grounds, not partisan. The immediate response from stunned Obama backers was to minimize the Commerce Department, only a week after stressing that Gregg's nomination made the most bipartisan Cabinet ever.

In a hasty White House statement, officials said Gregg reached out to them for the Commerce job and indicated he could go along, and they now regret he can't.

So three-plus weeks into his new administration, Obama's working on Commerce Secretary No. 3. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson pulled out of the nomination over anticipated troubles from a federal investigation of pay-to-play in his state's government.

And ex-Sen. Tom Daschle had to withdraw from the Cabinet's Health and Human Services post over years of unpaid taxes, a step that hampered Obama's attempt that same day to recapture the initiative in the economic debate. Obama went on all major broadcast TV networks, saying he'd "screwed up."

More details coming. Check back here.

--Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: New Hampshire GOP Sen. Judd Gregg, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the background.

Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images

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Growing political battle over the Census: Latinos versus Republicans

The United States takes a Census count of its population every ten years

Every 10 years, the federal government counts the U.S. population.

In a massive undertaking, the Census Bureau fans out across the country and the world to locate, count and gather basic information about Americans. The resulting data is a goldmine to businesses and advertisers. It's a road map for congressional appropriators in divvying up school, road and hospital funds. And it's the basis for how many congressional districts each state will get.

For the last few cycles, Latinos, blacks and other minorities have protested that language barriers and fear of government officials have resulted in an under-counting of their numbers. Since Latino voters voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in November, Latino groups expressed delight when President Obama selected New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Hispanic American, as secretary of the Commerce Department, which handles the Census.

Not so fast.

After Richardson withdrew his name over a pay-for-play scandal investigation, Obama selected New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg, a fiscal conservative, to lead the department. Latino groups protested, noting Gregg battled efforts to increase the Census budget the last time a Democrat lived in the White House.

California Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, said Gregg's record of voting to abolish the Commerce Department and to block President Clinton's campaign for Census funding in 2000 "raise troubling concerns regarding his commitment to the department’s core missions."

And William Ramos of the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials explained the ripple effects that make it so important the Census gets it right this time.

This is also data used for demographers, cartographers, the business community, the nonprofit community and local government entities. It is used to plan where the roads are going, where to put the water mains, the sewer lines, schools and the like.

Appealing to Obama, Latino groups won the president's agreement that the....

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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