Census director aims to keep politics out of it

Census director Robert Groves said he would resign if he sensed the survey was becoming politicized.
 
“My role is to keep this [Census] as nonpartisan as possible,” he told The Hill.
 

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The national survey has surfaced as a political issue several times since President Barack Obama took office -- particularly since it will determine the reapportionment of the House after its count is completed in December.
 
But Groves said he hasn’t felt any pressure from the administration.
 
“I can honestly say that I have had no conversations with any White House personnel since I was first approached for the nomination,” he said.
 
Once the survey is complete, each state will begin a redistricting process, potentially causing some House seats to switch parties.
 
“There can be a shift in political power,” Groves acknowledged.
 
In November, the Senate blocked an amendment by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) that would have required the Census to identify non-citizens in this year’s count. Vitter wanted the bureau to add a question on immigration status to the questionnaire in order to “help get better data for congressional redistricting,” a Vitter aide said.
 
Asked about Vitter's amendment, Groves said the census counts “everybody."
 
Immigration status is “irrelevant to the count," he noted. "We don’t need to know that for any reason.”
 
The census first generated controversy for the administration after Obama tapped Republican Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.) to head the Commerce Department. Administration officials reportedly then tried to shift more responsibility for survey over to the White House. Gregg objected and subsequently withdrew his nomination.
 
And, for the first time, the Census Bureau is spending millions on advertising to encourage minority residents to answer the survey’s 10 questions.
 
Officials hope that will result in a 2010 census that reveals the most nuanced picture to date of America’s changing demographic landscape.
 
The bureau on Thursday unveiled its $130 million ad campaign – 40 percent of which will be spent on reaching African-Americans and Hispanics.
 
“We’re spending more money on what we call ‘hard to enumerate groups,’” Groves said. “We tend to under-enumerate new immigrant groups, especially groups whose native language is not English.”
 
But some English-speakers can also be hard to reach, he added therefore: “We’re also sponsoring a Nascar, by the way, Number 16, Greg Biffle.”