“If the system is fair, people will be treated fairly.”
That’s the bottom-line from former Attorney General Eric Holder on the upcoming Census and redistricting process. Holder held a meeting in Miami Monday to help promote participation in the 2020 Census.
Holder now chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), a group that advocates for redistricting reform. The NDRC has started its “All On The Line” campaign to help encourage participation in next year’s Census.
“Florida is on our radar screen,” Holder said.
“This is an important state. What happens in this state has national consequences. And because it has national consequences, it truly has international consequences.”
The former AG, who served in the Barack Obama administration, pointed out that not only is Florida expected to add a pair of congressional seats after the population count, but that millions of dollars can be at stake as well.
State and local populations can often affect the flow of federal funds downward. That has led organizations like the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, New Florida Majority, the Urban League of Broward County and others to help raise money to ensure an accurate count occurs.
“We have to have a fair Census in 2020,” Holder said.
He called out the Donald Trump administration after the President was smacked down in court for attempting to add a question regarding individuals’ citizenship status on the Census.
That question has appeared on the Census in the past. But the Supreme Court argued the rationale given by Trump officials for re-adding the question was “contrived,” and could cause harm.
The Census is designed to count all persons inside a state, including noncitizens. Questioning individuals about their citizenship could dissuade undocumented immigrants from responding for fear of reprisal.
Holder asserted that was Trump’s point all along.
“The Trump administration’s attempt to include on the Census form that citizenship question was not an attempt to gain information, as was said by the Justice Department, to enforce the Voting Rights Act. I mean, that was laughable,” he argued.
“Just to be totally frank, that was designed to try to suppress the count in the Latino and Hispanic community.”
After the Supreme Court’s ruling, that question will no longer appear on the 2020 Census. But Holder still expressed some concern.
“That damage has been done. This administration through its policies has put in place a climate of fear,” Holder said.
“Many people are concerned about raising their hands and saying, ‘I want to be counted.'”
Holder said after the Census the NDRC will provide states with the ability to redraw their districts, if necessary, as a way to counteract Republicans map-drawing process.
“We are going to be a clearinghouse for states who want to have access to map-drawing technology. In 2011, one party had much better map-drawing technology than the other party did.”
But before that happens, states have to get the count right.
“This will not be easy,” Holder argued. “And we don’t have a huge amount of time. But I think we have a sufficient amount of time if we stay focused and we stay committed to this effort.”
He said awareness plays a huge factor. And Holder hopes the issue is broached in one of the upcoming presidential debates.
“I keep waiting for one of these moderators to ask [candidates] a question [about the Census]. You know, I keep hearing about health care. I know where these people stand on health care at this point,” Holder stressed.
“Ask them about some other stuff, like the structure of our democracy.”