Sunday, August 16, 2009

U.S. Census Bureau To Discriminate Against LDS Church, Will Refuse To Count American LDS Missionaries Deployed Overseas In 2010

On August 16th, 2009, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that the U.S. Census Bureau will refuse to count American missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deployed outside the country.

The Census Bureau claims there is no reliable way to determine how many were in each country or where they could receive the forms. The quality of data by country could vary drastically, which could harm the stateside census. In the United States, the Census sends a brief questionnaire to every address and if it is not returned, the agency sends an army of temporary employees to go door-to-door to get as much information as possible. But none of that takes place internationally.

The Census Bureau itself has experimented with solutions. In 2004, they conducted a limited "mail-in experiment" to determine the feasibility of counting Americans abroad, focusing on Mexico, France and Kuwait. The plan was to use the lessons learned in this trial to conduct a worldwide test in a few years. The Bureau printed 520,000 questionnaires and created a website for those who preferred to fill out the form online. But only 5,400 people responded, despite a publicity campaign that included giving forms to LDS mission presidents. Subsequently, the Government Accountability Office concluded it would be impractical for the Census to conduct the broader worldwide test and suggested abandoning the effort.

Election Data Services, a consulting firm specializing in the Census, estimates that 6 million Americans are overseas. So that means the undercount is signficant.

However, some overseas Americans are counted. Federal employees, members of the military and those on merchant vessels who are not currently in the country. And it's this discrepancy that has triggered the ire of Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), himself LDS. Bishop said, "The bottom line should still be fairness and accuracy. If we are currently counting some people abroad and not others, there is just no logic to that whatsoever."

Other Utah Federal lawmakers have joined in. In early June, Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) included a provision in a bill that would require the Secretary of State, Attorney General and the Census to study whether they could use passports to track people internationally. The legislation will have no impact on the 2010 Census. And just two weeks later, Bishop and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) co-sponsored legislation that would require "Be Counted" forms at all embassies and a way for non-governmental organizations to submit administrative records. Other proposed solutions include leaving "Be Counted" forms at embassies and consulates, as well as relying upon administrative records of major overseas organizations, faiths and businesses to count Americans and record which state they normally live in. The Census Bureau is not totally unsympathetic to the problem, but has said that if Congress wants them to count people overseas, then it needs to enact legislation requiring it. There is no evidence of deliberate discrimination against the LDS Church, though.

Why are Utah lawmakers leading the charge for census reform? It's because a disproportionate percentage of Mormons live in Utah, meaning that a disproportionate number of missionaries come from Utah. This means the state of Utah is being dsicriminated against as well. And in 2000, it may have cost Utah a fourth U.S. House seat; Utah fell just 857 people short of receiving the last available U.S. House seat and this discrepancy in how Americans are counted overseas is believed to have made the difference.

Nevertheless, this omission is inexcusable. If the Census Bureau knows there are Americans overseas, it should make census forms available at key embassies overseas. Not every U.S. embassy would need be given the forms; only a handful in a given region would need them. Americans in other countries would sinply be advised to visit a key embassy to fill out a form.

The Census Bureau does not seem particularly alarmed at the prospect of counting illegal aliens in 2010, though. The Wall Street Journal points out that California could benefit disproportionately if they do. According to the latest American Community Survey, California has 5,622,422 noncitizens in its population of 36,264,467. Based on WSJ's round-number projection of a decade-end population in that state of 37,000,000 (including 5,750,000 noncitizens), California would have 57 members in the newly reapportioned U.S. House of Representatives.

However, with noncitizens not included for purposes of reapportionment, California would have 48 House seats (based on an estimated 308 million total population in 2010 with 283 million citizens, or 650,000 citizens per House seat). Using a similar projection, Texas would have 38 House members with noncitizens included. With only citizens counted, it would be entitled to 34 members.


Sir Jupiter said...

Oh yes, members of the LDS church is soooo discriminated against. Thank goodness there are homosexuals around so that they can vicariously punish others with their persecution complex.

Jack Mormon said...

When you actually have something intelligent to say, Sir Jupiter, let me know. I won't be holding my breath, though. ;-)