There's a lot of hubbub about the next census including the question "Are you a U.S. citizen?" – many people saying it will spook illegal immigrants and lead to an under-counting, and many other people saying... something. That it seems like good information to get.

This is how it's reported on – the CNN story I linked above even decided to give airtime to the notion this is motivated by a political desire to violate the constitution's "whole number of persons" requirement. That is a little too stupid for me to believe, which makes me concerned about CNN viewers, honestly, as they appear not to mind the story as written.

The actual reason is why this is considered an update – the data will be used to more effectively enforce the Voting Rights Act, which gives a huge mechanical advantage to Republicans (meaning, separate from votes, the mechanism of counting votes would favor them). This data isn't necessary, or at least, isn't described that way, which seems fair. There's a lot of room in "how effectively do you enforce this law?" before the answers start being illegal.

I think having a tag for CNN being awful seems redundant, insofar as any reasonable person would understand that already, if only because of their breathless, rapt reporting on every minor disaster for weeks (if not months) after the fact, and their tendency to interrupt "breaking news" with even more "breaking news", none of which is relevant to anyone.

But considering the question doesn't ask "Are you in the U.S. legally?" – only if you are a citizen – you'd think reporting from other outlets would be more circumspect, and hopefully at least one would ask why Republicans would be so tenacious in their enforcement of a law that goes against the emotional messaging of their party... but I haven't seen it, and I've read a lot of stories about this looking for a counter-example.

Many of them either discuss or link to this report while wildly mischaracterizing it. The Census Bureau seem to have made a good faith effort to determine if the question would effect response rate, and it doesn't seem any worse than any other question, and they are mostly concerned with detecting (on a statistical basis) how many people will lie. Describing them as "preferring to ask when using governmental documents would provide a more accurate answer more cheaply", as many places have, ignores the report recommends using governmental records to enhance the accuracy of a question-only report, and just records or a less thorough question lack enough granularity to make sure at-risk districts are protected.

One of those stories says an official lied to Congress because an email chain (where they talk about a series of court cases establishing the DOJ has a need for this data) says they need to get the DOJ to request it before they can get the ball rolling, so him saying the DOJ prompted the process was a lie. This is... I'm not entirely sure how people imagine complex organizations, when they make claims like that.

The whole point of asking for a formal request is that, just needing something and demonstrating a need communicates effectively but doesn't feed the bureaucratic beast. And now... not even the formal requests do... I don't completely understand the nature of their concern.

One of the stories linked above, an NPR report, wants to deputize into fact a presentation containing the quotation "I don't trust the government not one bit" attributed to, if you can even comprehend this attribution, "Black or African American". That's the quality of the news coverage here, writing a story based on something like that.

Maybe Wilbur Ross is lying and being disingenuous. How could I possibly say for sure he isn't? But man, he just seems like a dude, trying to do a job. I think it's possible Democrats are using that element as a smokescreen to hide their rather weak claim that additional questions on the census are a constitutional violation. Because, that claim is weak enough I don't suspect it will prevail. But they'll be able to depose this dude for weeks in the meantime, try every way they can to humiliate him over insinuations of racism (again, it should be noted, because he wants to support the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act).