American democracy relies on an accurate, independent, and effective census. Any politicization of the Census poses a grave danger to core democratic principles. Our country relies on the Census to ensure that accurate information is available to the public and government decision-makers. And the Census plays a critically important role in ensuring properly representative free and fair elections. That is why Congress has enacted laws that require selection of a qualified, neutral, and Senate-confirmed official to lead the Census.
In light of reports that the Trump Administration is seeking to evade legal and constitutional requirements for a qualified and Senate-confirmed leader of the Census, Protect Democracy launched an investigation into White House interference with the Census and selection of the Census leadership. Protect Democracy has sued the Administration for documents regarding the potential politicization of the 2020 Census. Now, through its ongoing FOIA investigation, Protect Democracy has received new documents revealing that rumored Census Deputy Director appointee Thomas Brunell has received preliminary approvals from the Administration and that — at the insistence of the White House — Brunell was slated to begin the job on November 29, 2017.
In response, Protect Democracy has joined with seven other leading legal advocacy organizations to call on Secretary Ross to stop the appointment of an unqualified Deputy Director who would run the Census. Our letter makes clear that Secretary Ross has a legal duty to ensure qualified and appropriate Census leadership and does not permit evading these requirements through selection of a partisan hand-picked by the White House to lead the Census without Senate approval. Read the letter here.
The letter explains that federal law sets out specific qualifications for a Census Bureau Director and requires the Director to receive the advice and consent of the Senate. Relying on a Deputy Director as an indefinite Acting Director would circumvent statutory qualifications specifically for the Director and operate as an end-run around the Senate playing its critical role in vetting a Director nominee. “Adopting this approach,” the letter explains, “would flout the will of the Congress by disregarding duly passed statutes and circumventing the Senate’s vital role in providing advice and consent for key officers such as the Director of the Census Bureau.” Other signatories to the letter are the American Constitution Society (ACS), American Oversight, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Democracy Forward, the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP), and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).