Tony Perkins’ Disingenuous Attacks on Biden Administration’s Return to Constitutional Census Count  

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins hosted "Arise & Stand" on June 29, 2020.

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins—who pushed former President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen election and urged state legislators and U.S. senators to overturn the results—is now mischaracterizing the Biden administration’s first-day move to reverse Trump’s unconstitutional efforts to rig the 2020 U.S. census in favor of Republicans.

The wording of the Constitution is clear: The mandated census counts every person in the United States once every 10 years. For more than 200 years, that has been understood to mean every person living in the U.S. regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. The Trump administration’s plan to keep unauthorized immigrants out of the official count used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives was a major change. As NPR noted, “Since the first national head count in 1790, those numbers have never omitted any residents because of immigration status.”

But Perkins’ Friday “Washington Update” blog post tried  to make it sound like President Joe Biden’s return to two centuries of census practice is a radical change meant to “pack” Congress. Perkins quoted Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., complaining that because of the return to counting all persons, “Bible-belt states” would lose seats that they might have had if Trump had stayed in office and his plan had survived court challenges.

Biden’s decision to make the Census a part of his first-day executive actions signaled that his administration believed it was an important step to protecting the integrity of the census. It was a very public move to reverse the major change that the Trump administration had made. But Perkins somehow interpreted the inclusion in the first-day flurry of actions as “stealthy”:

It was a stealthy move, adding a major Census change to Biden’s stack of executive orders. The last thing Democrats want to do after the November election is draw more attention to how they’re systematically changing the process.

While Perkins portrayed his objection to the census change as concern over a “fair election process,” he shifted gears to celebrate that Republicans’ statehouse wins will allow them to continue the kind of egregious partisan gerrymandering that has rigged many state legislative seats and congressional districts, giving Republicans far greater representation than they earn at the ballot box. Perkins did not hide his partisan glee:

Thanks to the GOP’s overwhelming gains in statehouses last November, conservatives will have a major role in drawing the next district lines. “Republicans,” the FiveThirtyEight explains, “won almost every election where redistricting was at stake.” They won the power “to maximize the number of districts that favor their party… Both parties went into the election with a chance to draw more congressional districts than the other, but the end result was just about the best-case scenario for Republicans. As the map [here] shows, Republicans are set to control the redistricting of 188 congressional seats — 43 percent of the entire House of Representatives.”

Anyone tempted to take seriously Perkins’ professed concern about the census and the fairness of elections should recall that he was insisting in mid-December that Trump was “the lawful winner of the presidential election,” and at the end of December, after repeated court rejections of the Trump campaign’s allegations and after the states certified their Electoral College votes, Perkins was still, in the name of “integrity in the election process,” urging U.S. senators to contest the electoral votes from battleground states won by Biden.