New Report Recommends Census Reforms

Noting that the “bureaucracy and law that govern the census have not been systemically altered in decades,” the Brennan Center for Justice has offered “a blueprint for reform­ing the law and policy of the decennial population count… to make future censuses more accurate, equitable, and legitimate.”

The report, “Improving the Census,” includes 19 proposals that the Center says “will free the Census Bureau from recurring problems that it has never squarely addressed and set it up to respond to future problems in a more flexible, effective, and democratically responsive way,” including:

  1. “Establish the Census Bureau as its own executive agency”;
  2. “Limit the number of political appointees”;
  3. “Require political appointees to publicly disclose communications with the White House”;
  4. “Remove the president from the congressional apportionment process”;
  5. “Bar untimely and untested additions to the census questionnaire”;
  6. “Restructure congressional oversight of the census”;
  7. “Rigorously pursue oversight”;
  8. “Revoke statutory limits on data collection methods”;
  9. “Permit the director to extend the reporting deadlines for apportionment and redistricting data in emergencies”;
  10. “Allow the bureau more freedom to collect data from educational institutions”;
  11. “Facilitate changes to the census’s race and ethnicity questions”;
  12. “Facilitate a sexual orientation and gender identity question”;
  13. “Convene a National Academies panel to evaluate additional operational changes”;
  14. “Change the residence rule”;
  15. “Hold the Census Bureau and other agencies accountable for collecting home address data”;
  16. Clarify the superseding effect of Title 13’s confidentiality provisions”;
  17. “Codify bureau policy requiring specialized review of aggregate data on sensitive populations”;
  18. “Make the Census Bureau’s discretionary spending limits flexible”; and
  19. “Remove obsolete portions of the Census Act.”