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Posted by on Oct 15, 2009 in Politics, Society | 9 comments

David Vitter: Not Always Better Late than Never

Senator David Vitter, (R – La) along with his somewhat questionable and controversial activities in the past, also comes up with some good ideas. He demonstrated this talent once again recently when he suggested that maybe the next census should be sure that it’s only counting legal citizens. As Ed Morrissey points out, the consequences of screwing this up can be serious indeed.

Each seat represents 690,000 American residents at the moment, although in 2000 it would have been closer to 640,000, as population grew about 8% since the last census. Would California’s illegals have amounted to 3.2 million? That would be the upper reaches of estimates for illegal immigrants in the Golden State, but probably not outside the realm of possibility. If they all got counted, it could have skewed the allocation of seats in the House as much as Vitter claims.

Even leaving aside the specifics of which state gets counted for how many residents, the general principle of this should be enough. It’s good to know how many people are in the country, and that includes illegals. But one of the most critical aspects of the census data is the fact that it is used to determine how many representatives are allocated to the House. Illegal residents can not vote, are not entitled to all the same rights and privileges of citizens, and should – by definition – not count toward our representation, even in states where it might not skew the outcome in favor of any particular party or interest group.

However, there is one significant problem with Vitter’s move which Ed doesn’t touch on in his article. We’ve already printed tens or hundreds of millions of the forms, with roughly 15 million more currently being printed every day. We’re fast approaching the time when they will all have to be correlated and mailed out. Starting over now would not only throw off the timing, but would cost a lot of money.

So if we’re to object to Vitter’s amendment on any grounds at all, it would be, “Good idea, but how did you not manage to think of this last year?” Surely he is aware of this, and it just adds a bit of a stench to the proceedings as if he’s just trying to shut the census process down at this point, which is simply out of the question. It’s a valid point he raises, however, and we should definitely address this before the 2020 head count.