County of Santa Clara requests info on Census citizenship question and privacy concerns


SANTA CLARA COUNTY – The County of Santa Clara’s Office of the County Counsel recently filed a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for information regarding the U.S. Census Bureau’s possible inclusion of a question regarding citizenship on the 2020 Census.

The request also seeks information on how the Bureau plans to protect the privacy of individuals who respond to the Census.

“It’s our responsibility as a County to educate residents about the Census. Everyone has a right to be counted so we can be fairly represented in Congress and receive federal funding for housing and transportation projects,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. “Our residents have legitimate fears about whether the Census will include a question about citizenship, and how their privacy will be protected.”

Recently, the federal government suggested that it may include a question asking about responders’ citizenship on the 2020 Census. Experts have emphasized the potential dampening effect of such a question on Census response rates in diverse communities like Santa Clara County.

In addition, concerns about whether data collected by the Federal Census Bureau will remain private are also expected to negatively affect participation in the Census. As a result, there are serious questions about whether the federal government will fulfill its constitutional duty to provide an accurate count.

The County intends to use the requested information to provide accurate information to residents about these important issues, and take steps to ensure an accurate and fair count.

“The Constitution requires that the decennial Census be conducted in a manner that yields an accurate count of all people in the United States.

Because the Census is critical to setting political representation at all levels of government, an accurate Census is the bedrock of fair political representation,” said County Counsel James Williams. “The Census Bureau must provide information on the steps that it will take to ensure that every person is counted fairly and response rates are not suppressed.”

The U.S. Constitution requires the federal government to conduct the decennial Census, next slated for 2020, which must provide an accurate count of every person in the United States. The Census is critical to county residents’ political representation; it is the basis for allocation of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and for how district lines are drawn. Census data also set the baseline for the distribution of federal funds to the County and communities nationwide for health care, education, housing, roadways, and other critical services and resources.