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Secretary of State worried Trump administration is 'sabotaging' 2020 census

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said he thinks the Trump administration is trying to sabotage blue states.
william galvin, secretary of state, massachusetts
Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin. Photo: Sam Doran / SHNS

The Trump administration is attempting to sabotage blue states like Massachusetts by putting them at a disadvantage during the 2020 United States Census, Secretary of State William Galvin said, and he is prepared to sue the federal government to stop what he views as the politicization of the census.

"What I'm about to say is, I think, something that is a unique crisis that I think none of us could have anticipated. It's pretty obvious to me, as the census director and in the communication I've had with the Commerce Department so far in preparing for the 2020 Census which is now just two years away, that the Trump Administration intends to politicize this census," Galvin told lawmakers Tuesday. "They are clearly setting us up for a shortfall in states such as Massachusetts with some of the policies that they're considering and have already implemented."

The secretary added, "I say nothing less than sabotaging it for states like Massachusetts."

Galvin, who has led the state's efforts around the U.S. Census since the 2000 count, said the two greatest challenges to getting an accurate count of the people living in Massachusetts are the high number of immigrants who speak a diverse array of languages and a large number of college students.

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With immigrants, Galvin said, the greatest challenge is often making sure that people who have citizenship in another country know that they should participate in the U.S. Census.

"Given the rhetoric of the Trump administration, that problem in 2020 is going to be extreme," he said.

Galvin also raised concerns about "a suggestion from the United States Justice Department to the Department of Commerce that a question be inserted into the census" asking whether the person filling out the form is an American citizen.

"Everyone knows that under the federal code everyone should be counted whether they're citizens or not. So by putting that in there, they are clearly deterring people who might not be citizens from being counted," he said.

If the Trump Administration follows through with its apparent attempt to ask about citizenship on the census form, Galvin said he might sue the president and his administration.

"I am telling you now that if in fact they go ahead with their effort to insert questions into it that are going to be discouraging to people, that I am prepared to consult with the attorney general to bring a legal action against the federal government if that's necessary," he told a joint session of the Ways and Means committees.

Counting all the college students in Massachusetts is also difficult and Galvin said he typically tries to arrange to count college students in the spring before the universities empty out for the summer. But the Trump administration wants to extend that counting period into the summer, Galvin said, when the number of college students on campus is significantly depleted.

Taken together, Galvin said he thinks it is not "too extreme to say" that those two Trump administration policies amount to "a deliberate effort on their part to make for an undercount in Massachusetts."

"I'm very concerned. Everything I see here suggests to me that they don't really want a good count in states like ours," Galvin said. "It should be an honest and accurate count and I'm not sure that if things continue the way they're going that's what we're going to get."

The secretary warned that undercounting the residents of Massachusetts could lead to a decrease in the state's political representation and a loss of federal funding.

"It means less money. If you don't have the people to prove that you're eligible, then you're going to get less money," Galvin said, "less money for education, for transportation, less money for all the things we get money from the federal government for."

Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka thanked Galvin for his feedback on the Census and said it was "an area we need to make sure we stay on top of."

 
 
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