On January 10, 2018, the Insights Association joined with more than 160 other organizations in a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, urging him "to reject the Department of Justice’s untimely and unnecessary request for a new citizenship question on the 2020 Census, which would threaten a fair and accurate decennial census. Adding a new citizenship question to the 2020 Census would destroy any chance for an accurate count, discard years of careful research, and increase costs significantly."
"You and your staff have made clear that you share our goal of a full, fair, and accurate census. A fair and accurate census, and the collection of useful, objective data about our nation’s people, housing, economy, and communities generally, are among the most significant civil rights issues facing the country today. Every census since the first enumeration in 1790 has included citizens and non-citizens alike. Adding a new question on citizenship to the 2020 Census undoubtedly would affect response rates, outreach, and advertising strategies, and other important elements of the nation’s largest, most complex peacetime activity, calling into question the results of many years of costly, painstaking research and testing."
"Adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census would disrupt preparations at a pivotal point in the decade, undermining years of research and testing and increasing census costs significantly at a time when Congress has directed a less expensive enumeration. The Justice Department’s request would literally would add billions of dollars to the life-cycle cost of this census, without improving accuracy."
As the Insights Association stated already in our position paper, we oppose adding questions to the decennial at this point, since it would likely increase the costs for and impede the conduct of the 2020 headcount.
The letter continues:
"Questionnaire design and testing began nearly eight years ago during the 2010 Census. Requiring this new topic this late in the decade would threaten the success of the 2020 Census because robust testing in a census-like environment is essential, given the probable chilling effect of adding these questions to the form. There simply is no time to redesign the census form, craft scientifically sound questions to collect the information the Justice Department requests, and evaluate the impact of this new question on census participation and operations before the census starts, in any responsible way. Given the constitutional requirement to conduct the census in 2020, final planning and preparations for the census would be haphazard, at best, leaving the nation with a deeply flawed foundation for ourdemocratic ideals, informed decision-making, and prudent allocation of precious taxpayer dollars."
The letter also counters claims made by the Justice Department that the citizenship question needs to be added to the 2020 Census in order to enforce the Voting Rights Act: "Finally, in addition to being untimely, the request is unnecessary. The Justice Department has never needed to add this new question to the decennial census to enforce the Voting Rights Act before, so there is no reason it would need to do so now. Contrary to the Justice Department’s letter, the Census Bureau has not included a citizenship question on the modern census “short form,” sent to every household. In fact, no such question has appeared on the census “short form” since enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965."