Maloney, Cummings, Oversight Committee Dems Ask for Documents on DOJ’s 2020 Census Citizenship Question Request

May 2, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Co-Chair of the House Census Caucus, and Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led a letter of all Oversight Committee Democrats requesting that the Department of Justice produce documents to explain why and how the department requested that a citizenship question be added to the 2020 Census.

In the letter, the members wrote, “Despite DOJ’s assertions, the justification for the addition of a citizenship question remains unclear. In a briefing on April 11, 2018, Acting Director Jarmin informed members of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the Census Bureau simply accepted DOJ’s request at face value and conducted no analysis to determine whether the justification was valid.  DOJ has not deemed it ‘critical’ to include a citizenship question on the decennial census to enforce voter protections since the Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965, and it is unclear what circumstances have changed.”

Signers of the letter are:

  • Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY)
  • Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD)
  • Matt Cartwright (D-PA)
  • Jim Cooper (D-TN)
  • Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO)
  • Gerald Connolly (D-VA)
  • Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA)
  • Jimmy Gomez (D-CA)
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
  • Robin Kelly (D-IL)
  • Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL)
  • Brenda Lawrence (D-MI)
  • Stephen Lynch (D-MA)
  • Stacey Plaskett (D-VI)
  • Jamie Raskin (D-MD)
  • John Sarbanes (D-MD)
  • Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)
  • Peter Welch (D-VT)

 

Full text of the letter below and a PDF available here.

Dear Mr. Gore:

On December 12, 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter to Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin requesting that the Census Bureau add a citizenship question to the 2020 Decennial Census.  DOJ alleged that decennial census citizenship data is “critical to the Department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”  DOJ argued that it “needs a reliable calculation of the citizen voting-age population in localities where voting rights violations are alleged or suspected.”[1]

Despite DOJ’s assertions, the justification for the addition of a citizenship question remains unclear.  In a briefing on April 11, 2018, Acting Director Jarmin informed members of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the Census Bureau simply accepted DOJ’s request at face value and conducted no analysis to determine whether the justification was valid.  DOJ has not deemed it “critical” to include a citizenship question on the decennial census to enforce voter protections since the Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965, and it is unclear what circumstances have changed.

To help understand the substance of DOJ’s justification and the process by which its request was made, we request that you provide the following documents in the custody, control, or possession of the Department of Justice by May 7, 2018, so Members can have the opportunity to review them prior to the Committee’s scheduled hearing on May 8, 2018:

  1. all documents and communications relating or referring to the addition of a citizenship question to the census;
  2. documents and communications sufficient to show who was involved in this request and the role of each individual who was involved;
  3. all documents and communications within the Department of Justice and with outside entities regarding the request to add a citizenship question to the census, including but not limited to the White House, the Commerce Department, the Republican National Committee, the Trump Campaign, or Members of Congress;
  4. all documents and communications relating or referring to the need to add a citizenship question to the census in order to enforce the Voting Rights Act;
  5. a list of all instances in which the lack of a citizenship question on the decennial census negatively impacted DOJ’s Voting Rights Act enforcement efforts; and
  6. a list of all voting rights enforcement actions taken by the Department of Justice since January 20, 2017.

If you have any questions about this request, please contact Max Whitcomb with Representative Maloney’s staff at (202) 225-7944 or Katie Teleky with Ranking Member Cummings’ staff at (202) 225-5051.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

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[1] Letter from Arthur E. Gary, General Counsel, Justice Management Division, Department of Justice, to Ron Jarmin, Acting Director, Census Bureau (Dec. 12, 2017) (online at www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/program-management/working-papers/Uses-of-Census-Bureau-Data-in-Federal-Funds-Distribution.pdf).

Issues: