Lena Mitchell


If you think the battle currently being waged by the U.S. Justice Department and the White House over the 2020 Census is really about whether people are asked a citizenship question, think again.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the Justice Department’s stated reason for adding the question – for the first time since the 1950 census – was simply a pretext. The department said it would use the question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.

However, one only need look at the 2010 census and its electoral outcomes for Republicans to see that their goal continues to be keeping the party of the minority in power.

“He who controls redistricting can control Congress,” Republican operative Karl Rove wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial in 2010.

Rove outlined a plan where redistricting on the basis of the 2010 census would allow Republicans to win majority control in state legislatures. Their plan worked, and until last fall’s election, the minority party controlled about two-thirds of legislatures and governorships across the United States.

With Democrats winning a number of governor’s races and the overwhelming number of U.S. House of Representatives seats, signs are that some parity is returning to the electoral process.

Republicans continue to control about 70 percent of state legislatures. One white Mississippi representative said Mississippi House Speaker Phillip Gunn told them that “every white legislator should be a Republican.” That Democrat chose to switch parties and is now a Republican.

Republican majorities that drew state legislative maps managed to crowd registered Democrats into fewer districts, while shaping other districts to make registered Republican voters the majority.

Legislative districts are drawn every 10 years based on counts from the U.S. census, so having fewer people who are likely to vote as Democrats counted favors Republican control.

You may not be aware how many aspects of your daily life are affected by the U.S. census count:

• Federal funds allocated for public schools and locations where schools are built.

• Federal funds allocated for highways and bridges.

• Federal funds available to support local hospitals.

• Data that tells where and the numbers of people who live there to determine the need for building new hospitals and approving health care clinics.

• The numbers and locations where people live that help determine how many police officers, fire departments and other public safety and emergency preparedness needs.

Republican politicans for many years have used various cover stories to hide their true objectives, and the one about upholding the Voting Rights Act is just the latest.

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach implemented stringent voter ID laws, and was successful in seeing similar laws passed by Republican legislatures across the nation.

The laws supposedly were designed to protect against “rampant” voter fraud, something that has never been shown to be a nationwide problem.

The only “rampant voter fraud” case was adjudicated in North Carolina this year and involved a Republican candidate using a consultant to solicit illegal votes.

Let’s not be fooled by the easy phrases and headlines that seem to say one thing but whose true intent is just the opposite.

Remind everyone you know that much is at stake in the 2020 census count, and all must take part to create the kind of communities in which we want to live.

LENA MITCHELL is a retired Daily Journal reporter who continues to write a regular column. Contact her at lena.mitchell.dj@gmail.com.

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