Jul 13 2009

Shelby: We Must Not Let the Census Become a Blatant Political Tool

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby today made the following statement on the floor of the Senate regarding nomination of Robert Groves to serve as Director of the Census.  The full Senate is expected to vote on the nomination later today.  Senator Shelby has expressed concern about the potential role of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in the census process.  On March 20, 2009, Senator Shelby sent a letter to President Obama detailing his concern regarding the announcement that ACORN signed as a national partner with U.S. Census Bureau to assist with recruiting temporary census workers.  A copy of the letter is attached.

Senator Shelby’s prepared remarks are as follows:

“Madame President, I rise today with concern regarding the nomination of Mr. Robert Groves to serve as Director of the Census.

“Conducting the census is a vital constitutional obligation. 

“Under the U.S. Constitution, the country conducts a census every ten years to determine apportionment to Congress.  Article I, Section 2 mandates “Enumeration” to determine the allocation of seats for each state in U.S. House of Representatives.  

“By extension, the census also determines the composition of the Electoral College, which chooses the president. 

“The information collected from the census has a significant impact on the distribution of political power. 

“The results of this process are a major factor in deciding where congressional district lines are drawn within each state.

“Through redistricting, political parties can maximize their own party’s clout while minimizing the opposition.  If the census were politicized, the party in control could arguably perpetuate its hold on political power. 

“The results of the census are also enormously important in another way – the allocation of federal funds.

“Theoretically, if the census were to become politicized, the political party controlling the census process could disproportionately steer federal funding to areas dominated by its own members through a skewing of census numbers. 

“This could shift billions of federal dollars for roads, schools, and hospitals over the next decade from some parts of the country to others because of population-driven financing formulas.

“Madame President, the census is vastly important and must proceed in as reliable and accurate manner as possible.

“On March 20, 2009, I wrote to President Obama regarding reports that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) had signed as a national partner with the U.S. Census Bureau to assist with recruiting temporary census workers.

“This letter remains unanswered.

“I cannot support the nomination of Mr. Groves when the Administration he works for would partner with such a questionable organization.

“Further, I am dismayed that Mr. Groves, the nominee to head the U.S. Census Bureau, would not denounce ACORN’s role in the census.

“This is an organization, Madame President, that has numerous allegations of fraud, which should raise great concern about the accuracy of the data it would provide. 

“Washington State filed felony charges in 2007 against several paid ACORN employees and supervisors for falsifying 1,700 fraudulent voter registration cards. 

“An ACORN worker in Pennsylvania was sentenced in 2008 for fabricating 29 falsified voter registration forms. 

“In Ohio in 2004, a worker for one affiliate was given crack cocaine in exchange for fraudulent registrations that included underage, as well as dead, voters. 

“ACORN has been implicated in similar voter registration schemes around the country and its activities were frequently questioned throughout the 2008 presidential election.

“The census must be nonpartisan.  We cannot allow a biased, politically-active organization to take any type of official role in the process, let alone recruitment. 

“By over counting here, and under counting there, manipulation could take place solely for political gain. 

“Using ACORN to mobilize hundreds of thousands of temporary workers can surely lead to abuses for those who want to gain political advantage, just as we saw with the voter registration issues in past elections. 

“The laws that govern voter fraud were not enough to dissuade those with the intent to throw an election.  It is doubtful that the laws governing fraud in the census will be any more effective against such deceitful intents.

“Madame President, the people of this nation deserve a census that is conducted in a fair and accurate manner, using the best methods to determine the outcome, and that is free from political tampering. 

“Given ACORN’s history and political connections, the U.S. Census Bureau should not partner with an organization that has systemic problems with both accuracy and legitimacy. 
While I cannot support Mr. Groves’ nomination, I hope he will carefully review this issue and terminate ACORN’s role in the 2010 census.

“We must not let the census become a blatant political tool.

“Thank you, Madame President.  I yield the floor.”