Ari Berman for MotherJones
The Trump administration’s controversial pick to run the 2020 census has withdrawn from consideration to be deputy director of the US Census Bureau, according to sources close to the bureau.
In November, Politico reported that the administration planned to put Thomas Brunell, a political science professor who has defended Republican redistricting efforts in more than a dozen states, in charge of the decennial census count. He was supposed to begin in late November, according to documents from the Census Bureau released by the watchdog group Protect Democracy as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. But civil rights advocates and Democratic members of Congress pushed back against the appointment.
Now Brunell has withdrawn from consideration, according to two sources who were informed of his decision. A spokesperson for the Commerce Department, which houses the Census Bureau, confirmed that Brunell is “not under consideration.” Brunell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Unlike past deputy directors of the bureau, who have been nonpartisan career civil servants, Brunell has no prior government experience and is a registered Republican. The University of Texas at Dallas professor is the author of the 2008 book Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America, which provocatively argues that politically lopsided electoral districts offer better representation for voters than competitive ones.
Brunell’s appointment had raised grave fears among civil rights advocates that the 2020 census would not accurately count minority communities and would be manipulated by the Trump administration to give Republican areas more political representation and federal funding than Democratic ones. The census, which is mandated by the Constitution to accurately count every person in America, determines the level of representation for state and federal districts and the allocation of $600 billion in federal funding to states and localities.
“It’s breathtaking to think they’re going to make that person responsible for the census,” former Attorney General Eric Holder told me in early January. “It’s a sign of what the Trump administration intends to do with the census, which is not to take a constitutional responsibility with the degree of seriousness that they should. It would raise great fears that you would have a very partisan census run in 2020.”2018 Mid-term elections, Ari Berman, Gerrymandering, MotherJones
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