Roll Call is reporting that a White House official said Tuesday that the director of the 2010 Census will report to the Commerce secretary after all (not the White House), “possibly allaying fears among Republicans that it will fall under the political control of the White House.” Of course, the problem with that view, as I pointed out on February 13, is that the real issue is not who the Census Bureau reports to, but how the Bureau conducts the Census. Former Washington Governor Gary Locke, Obama’s new choice for Commerce secretary, will be reporting to the president after the Census Bureau reports to him — as he should under a system which vests the president with the executive power. So the White House will still have control over the Census Bureau.
Accordingly, despite statements about “who” will be in charge designed to allay fears, the key is making sure that the Census Bureau does not decide to use statistical sampling to conduct those portions of the enumeration not foreclosed by Supreme Court precedent (which is limited to congressional reapportionment). That is what must be prevented, whether the Census career staff decides to do that on their own, or because they have been told to do it by the White House through Secretary Locke. Otherwise, the Bureau could “adjust” Republicans right into the political wilderness for decades to come.