Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution doesn’t show up on a lot of T-shirts or tattoos, but that doesn’t make it any less a part of the law of the land.
The so-called “Enumeration clause” requires a census of all persons within the U.S. borders to be taken every 10 years to determine the reapportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the number of Electoral College votes the state can cast. The count also decides how billions of dollars in federal funding will be sent to the states over the next decade.
The census informs how business leaders, researchers, historians and many others make judgments — everything from health-care facilities to bus routes and grocery stores. They need good numbers to make good decisions.
So, while you don’t hear a lot of people shouting for their Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 rights at rallies and protests, enforcement of this section of the law will determine the proper allocation of political power and substantial financial resources until after 2030.
That’s why it’s crucial that Congress and the courts stand up to the Trump administration’s latest attempt to short-circuit the census, this time by cutting off the count a month earlier than planned.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced on Monday that it would shut down the counting process at the end of September instead of Oct. 31 in order to get the numbers to the White House by the end of the year.
Facing delays and obstacles created by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau had earlier asked Congress, which determines how the census is conducted, to move the deadline for delivery to the president to April 2021. Officials said they could not produce an accurate count without an extension.
The Democratic-controlled House voted to move the deadline but the Republican-majority Senate has failed to act.
Now, the bureau says it will attempt to do in six weeks what it already has said couldn’t be accomplished in 10 weeks.
That task is to find and count those who have not responded by mail or the internet — nearly four of every 10 households — a population that typically includes those living in poorer and minority communities, and undocumented immigrants.
The Trump administration has already tried twice to keep those immigrants out of the count, first by attempting to insert a citizenship question into the census and more recently with a Trump memorandum directing Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to exclude undocumented immigrants from the “apportionment base,” the population that’s used to determine the number of House seats a state gets in Congress.
The first effort was thwarted by the courts and the latest could be decided there as well.
The Constitution requires “actual enumeration,” which means an exact or real count of all “persons.” Congress has wide discretion in determining the means and methodology of getting that done. Over 230 years, the guidance has been to make the count as accurate as humanly possible and include everyone, not just citizens.
The obvious solution for the current problem is for the Senate to approve the deadline extension and give the Census Bureau the time it needs to overcome the challenges the pandemic has created. They can do so in the next COVID-19 package. The administration needs to stop meddling and let the bureau finish this incredibly important task.
We may not see “Article I, Section 2, Clause 3” stitched in tapestries hung over the hearth, but it’s the law of the land — right there in the Constitution.
Excerpted from the Houston Chronicle