Adding to the political intrigue surrounding commerce secretary-nominee Judd Gregg’s sudden resignation is a new partisan fight over the 2010 census. With a fast-growing Latino voter base, how that battle shapes up could affect Republican electoral prospects for many years to come.
Gregg blames his cold feet, in part, on not being simpatico with President Barack Obama on the 2010 census process managed by the Commerce Department. Obama has expressed interest in being more involved in the national head-counting process that determines congressional voting district maps and billions of dollars in federal funding allocations to the states for health, education and more.
Census data is also important for engaging the population in the democratic process, panelists said. About 50,000 Latinos reach the age of 18 every year and are eligible to vote. “This information is very important for the census because they become voters and can fully participate in the electoral process,” said William Ramos of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).
Getting an accurate count of minority residents, who LULAC officials note have been historically distrustful of the census process, also ensures that Latino communities will have greater access to federal grants and safety-net programs frequently associated with Democrats. Something the Dems will no doubt remind voters of during the election season.
Predictably, conservative groups are having a kitten over the prospect of White House involvement in the census with Human Events.com calling it a power grab. That’s not at all true but the facts don’t fit their hysterical narrative so they’re going with it anyway. But pushing an argument that it’s okay to under-count minorities won’t bode well for the GOP.
Even President George H.W. Bush’s census director, Barbara Everitt Bryant, told The Washington Post that Obama’s attention would be a welcome change:
“I would have liked a little of the bully pulpit help, because one of the big things is just to get everyone to answer the questionnaire. The president would have a lot more clout on that than anything we could have done at the Census bureau.”