Why the Census Matters Now More Than Ever

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from TIME Magazine,

The question of how many men, women and children live within our borders seems an academic one. A factoid, easily answered by the U.S. Census Bureau, which, by constitutional decree, updates its tally every decade using an army of 635,000 “enumerators” who are employed to walk door-to-door, clipboards in hand.

Of course, the Census results are more than trivia.

And so when Census Bureau director John Thompson announced on May 9 that he will leave his post at the end of June, it caused a stir. Thompson, who served at the bureau for more than 30 years, was expected to stay on through 2017. But colleagues say he was hobbled by intense pressure from Congress about cost overruns on a new Internet-based questionnaire and by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s wavering confidence in him. (In a statement to TIME, the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census, declined to elaborate.)

Regardless of the reason for Thompson’s exit, his departure leaves the bureau rudderless, not only in the crucial years leading up to the 2020 Census but also at a uniquely volatile moment on the political stage. Throughout both his campaign and his time in office, President Trump has regularly assailed both the legitimacy of federal institutions and the veracity of objective facts. Now Trump is tasked with appointing Thompson’s replacement — and, more important, ensuring that Americans can trust the data that he or she presents.

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