President Donald Trump is leaning toward nominating Thomas Brunell to run the U.S. Census Bureau, a candidate who lacks experience and has help Republicans draw congressional districts in their favor, Politico reports.
“If true, it signals an effort by the administration to politicize the census. It’s very troubling,” said Terri Ann Lowenthal, the former co-director of the Census Project, who joining the growing chorus of activists expressing concern that the GOP will use the census count to give Republican candidates unfair advantages.
The U.S. Constitution requires a population count every 10 years, which determines the allocation of the House of Representatives’ 435 seats, as well as state and local legislatures in many jurisdictions. Having an accurate census also determines how the federal government distributes funding to state and local governments for a range of public services. Voting rights advocates are concerned that the Trump administration will try to use the upcoming 2020 census to overcount people in some place and undercount residents in other locations.
Brunell is a political science professor, with no experience working in government, who has testified numerous times on behalf of Republican efforts to redraw congressional districts. His appointment as deputy director of the U.S. Census Bureau would be unusual because those who have held the position in the past were nonpolitical career civil servants with an academic background in statistics. The deputy director job, unlike the census director position, does not require Senate confirmation. What’s more, Brunell would oversee the day-to-day operation as the highest-ranking permanent official in the bureau. The census director post is currently vacant, and it could remain that way to allow Brunell to run the operation.