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Citizenship question would have been a gov’t nightmare

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President Donald Trump on Thursday announced he had backed away from issuing an executive order to add a citizenship question to the census form and would instead instruct all government agencies to provide existing data about residents’ citizenship status.

In a White House announcement, Trump said he’d nixed the census question because it would have prompted “considerable delays” in completing the census.

Several former Census Bureau directors and other experts told NBC News that while Trump could have potentially moved forward in three ways to include the question on the census form — each would have presented enormous and unprecedented logistical challenges, due mostly to the fact the Commerce Department had already begun printing forms without the question.

1. Start over

Following a Supreme Court decision that blocked the addition of the question, the Census Bureau recently began printing the questionnaire.

That means that if Trump had decided to nevertheless order the question added, one option would have been to throw away everything that’s already been printed and reprint the questionnaire with the citizenship question.

But depending on how many forms had already been printed, the former census chiefs and experts said, this option could have been enormously expensive.

“This is not just like going to your corner print store and running off a few extra copies. This is a print job unlike any print job the country ever does,” Robert Groves, the Census Bureau director from 2009 to 2012, told NBC News.

Groves, who oversaw the 2010 census during the Obama administration, said the government contract and the timing with the printer — the conglomerate R.R. Donnelley — is typically arranged far in advance and can be very difficult to change on short notice.

“In order to schedule such a large print job, the company that does it has to move their other clients around the census schedule, and I would imagine they have already done so,” Groves, who now works as the provost of Georgetown University, said. “If the government came in at the last minute, and said we need more print capacity in the later phase, you can imagine the logistical problems and implications for other printer users.”

Groves estimated the government would have had to reprint tens of millions of new questionnaires.

2. An addendum

Another option would have been to print an addendum — essentially one additional piece of paper with the added question on it to supplement the census questionnaire that had already been printed.

While this option would have been far less costly and quicker, the former Census Bureau directors agreed that having two questionnaires would likely present substantial confusion for recipients and lead to unreliable results.

“You can obviously just print a separate piece of paper and stick it in a separate envelope, but that would damage the census, by definition,” said Kenneth Prewitt, who served as the Census Bureau director from 1998 to early 2001 and oversaw the 2000 census in the Clinton administration.

“It’s unprecedented and, yes, methodologically unsound,” added Prewitt, now a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He explained that, in this scenario, participants might receive one envelope in the mail with two questionnaires, or two envelopes with two questionnaires, and that in either case, it would likely cause confusion and lead to people filling out one but not the other — which could scramble results.

“Changes midstream, like this, are likely to impact accuracy and the quality of the data,” said Corinna Turbes, the associate director of policy analysis at the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, a nonprofit focused on promoting excellence in federal statistics.

Experts also pointed out that if Census Bureau officials started over and reprinted the questionnaire, or included an addendum, the bureau also would have to print other materials — such as instructions for “enumerators,” the census takers who go house to house.

“The citizenship question is a politically and emotionally charged question,” Groves said. “You’d have to print new training manuals for enumerators. Imagine yourself as an enumerator working in a neighborhood that has a lot of new immigrants … you would need to pick up some skills to express to them this is confidential information that can’t be used against them. This is a new challenge.”

3. Call them

After the initial self-response period, the Census Bureau begins a non-response follow-up phase for people who did not respond initially. In between, however, there is something called the “coverage improvement operations” — a large-scale effort by callers hired by the Census Bureau who reach out to respondents from the initial wave of voluntary responses for answers to questions that were not clear or were missing.

In theory, Groves and Prewitt said, the Census Bureau could use this protocol as a way to ask all respondents the citizenship question.

But the callers would have to receive fresh training on how to appropriately ask the question, Groves said. In addition, he said, coverage improvement operations have typically been staffed at levels that imagine callers reaching out a few million households with incomplete data — not tens of millions of them.

“The staffing of the call centers is not designed to be at this level,” Groves said.

There are other unique problems in this scenario.

“Even in 2019, not everyone has a telephone,” Groves said. “And actually, not everyone even writes their telephone number on the form in the first place. It’s an item where we tend to see the most missing data.”

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Labour coup to oust Watson after he plotted to be PM in anti-Brexit Government

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THE sneaky bid to oust Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson was sparked by suspicions he was scheming with Tory rebels and Liberal Democrats MPs to become prime minister of a caretaker Government.

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Booker says it's time for his campaign to 'grow or get out'

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MSNBC’s Vaughn Hillyard asked 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., about a memo that says his campaign needs to raise support or he may drop out of the race.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio drops 2020 bid

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped out of the 2020 presidential race Friday, ending a long shot bid for the Democratic nomination that never went anywhere.

“I feel like I have contributed all I can to this primary election, and it’s clearly not my time, so I’m going to end my presidential campaign,” de Blasio said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“We have a chance to get it right in 2020,” de Blasio added. “Whoever our nominee is, let’s make sure we’re talking to the hearts of working people.”

De Blasio said he would not be endorsing any of his fellow candidates “today” but that he would “think about” doing so in the future. He added that he would “of course” support “whoever the eventual nominee is.”

In a piece for NBC News’ THINK, de Blasio explained that he would continue “fighting for working people and ensuring that New York City remains the vanguard of progressivism will continue to be my missions.”

President Donald Trump — a frequent critic of de Blasio — immediately chimed in, jeering in a post on Twitter that the exit from the race by the “Part time Mayor” was “big political news, perhaps the biggest story in years” and that “NYC is devastated” that “he’s coming home.”

De Blasio’s bid — launched in May — ultimately lasted just over four months and was largely mocked for most of its short life.

He was widely unpopular in New York City, with an April Quinnipiac Poll showing that more than three-quarters of New Yorkers felt he shouldn’t run, and faced a stiff upward climb in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

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De Blasio had attempted to run on a record of progressive accomplishments, including enacting universal pre-kindergarten and helping to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

But his campaign never took off. A slew of national polls showed him stuck with just 1 percent support — and often times even less. A Siena College poll released earlier this week showed him with 0 percent, even in New York City.

De Blasio failed to qualify for the Democratic debate earlier this month and was all but certain to fail to qualify for the one scheduled for October.

His brief campaign was marred with sparsely attended events and a bevy of unforced errors.

He made headlines in August after an event in Iowa drew only about 15 people.

De Blasio attempted to use Twitter to brand Trump as “ConDon,” but that, too, drew mockery because it means condom in Spanish.

And he continued earning the scorn of his fellow New Yorkers for being on the campaign trail during crises in New York City, including a widespread power outage in July.

Even his entrance into the race in May was bogged down with challenges: A Missouri teenager stole the spotlight from his campaign when he scooped the New York City mayor’s announcement.

In dropping out, de Blasio joins a growing list of candidates who ended their runs early — and on their own terms.

Last month, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., announced she was ending her presidential bid. Earlier, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and California Rep. Eric Swalwell all also left the Democratic race. There are still 17 people running in the Democratic field.



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