WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have cosponsored legislation to protect the decennial census from intimidating respondents and curbing participation.

The Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (Census IDEA) Act will help safeguard the integrity of the 2020 census. It will ensure that any proposed changes to the count are adequately studied and researched prior to being added to the questionnaire. 

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The legislation comes after a United States Supreme Court decision on June 27 that blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, citing insufficient justification for adding the question.

“The census is a critical undertaking in our democracy that helps determine the number of representatives and federal dollars given to states. Additionally, many businesses rely on census population data to decide where to open new stores, buy advertising, or deploy wireless broadband infrastructure. Therefore, it’s extremely important that we ensure the accuracy of the count and prevent it from being shaped by political motives,” said the Senators. “This bill will ensure that any additional question be presented with enough time for Congress to review its effects and help keep the census an independent tool for the American people.”

In order to ensure the integrity of the census, the Census IDEA Act would:

  • Prevent last-minute operational changes that have not been properly researched, studied, and tested at least 3 years prior to the next decennial census date;
  • Ensure that subjects, types of information, and questions that have not been submitted to Congress according to existing law are not included;
  • Require biannual reports on the U.S. Census Bureau’s operation plan, including the status of its research and testing; a report on the agency’s operational plan 5 years prior to the next decennial census; and require that these reports be publicly available on the Bureau’s website;
  • Direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office to determine and report to Congress that the subjects, types of information, and questions on the decennial census have been researched, studied, and tested to the same degree as previous decennial censuses; and
  • Apply the provisions of this bill only to the decennial census, and not the mid-decade census or the American Community Survey.

Sens. Warner and Kaine, who sponsored this bill last Congress, have opposed politically motivated efforts to change longstanding practices in asking about citizenship status and have advocated for robust funding for the 2020 census.