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Robert Groves Confirmed as Census Director

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 6:14 p.m. ET

The Senate confirmed Robert Groves as director of the U.S. Census Bureau tonight following more than a month of objections from Republican lawmakers.

Robert Groves
Robert Groves, President Obama's nominee to lead the U.S. Census Bureau.

Groves previously served as the Census Bureau’s associate director from 1990 to 1992 and until today headed the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center. He has researched why people participate in statistical surveys, worked to develop surveys with lower non-response errors and studied how data is collected for surveys. One of his first jobs after graduating from college was as a prison guard with the Vermont State Prison system.

Republicans David Vitter (La.) and Richard Shelby (Ala.) had delayed a final vote on Groves by placing holds on his nomination. Vitter sought assurances from the White House that it will not use statistical sampling to adjust next year's Census and inquired about community activist group ACORN and its involvement with Census activities. Shelby expressed similar concerns about ACORN in a March letter to Obama. Neither has received sufficient answers from the White House, according to spokesmen.

Though the Supreme Court ruled statistical sampling illegal for purposes of Congressional reapportionment, Republicans have seized on Groves' support for sampling following the 1990 Census. During his confirmation hearing however, he unequivocally stated that sampling will not be used to adjust next year's results.

ACORN is one of thousands of corporations, churches and civic groups partnering with the Census Bureau to raise awareness among their customers and members about next year's headcount. Republicans fear ACORN volunteers will be tasked with performing follow up interviews with Americans that do not complete their Census questionnaires. Census officials assure skeptics that the group's volunteers will only work on outreach efforts.

"It's beyond comprehension why they've allowed this hold to drag on for a month and a half," said Phil Sparks, director of The Census Project. "It's also clear that had Al Franken not taken his Senate seat, the hold would have continued."

Experts say Groves now faces several immediate challenges. The bureau is on the verge of opening hundreds of Census field offices across the country and must hire millions of temporary workers to conduct next year's follow up interviews. It will also launch a multi-million dollar ad campaign early next year to help increase participation among the nation's poor and ethnic minorities.

Perhaps most crucially however, Groves will have to combat lingering confusion and concern about next year's count. Several leaders, including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and a group of Latino evangelical pastors have called for boycotts of some or all Census activities for reasons varying from the Constitutional limits of the Census and President Obama's plans to address immigration reform.

"He's got to really take the administrative reins of the bureau," Sparks said and must serve as a fair and honest spokesman for the bureau, "Something that has been sorely missing for the last eight months."

By Ed O'Keefe  | July 13, 2009; 12:52 PM ET
Categories:  Census, Congress  
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If the Republicans continue objecting to everyone that the President nominates from the Supreme Court down to the Census Bureau, that has waited so long for a leader, that party will not only remain a minority, but it will have gone beyond politics for the good of the country to the politics of destruction, Haven't we had enough of that with the W. Bush Administration of, thank goodness, the past? This country can ill afford more negativity and obstructionism.

Posted by: richardcohen1 | July 13, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who cares about the preservation of our democracy needs to be OUTRAGED by the participation in the census of a radical criminal organization like ACORN.

There must be vigilance, lawsuits, protests, and if necessary civil disobedience until we GET ACORN OUT of the U.S. Census.

Posted by: zjr78xva | July 13, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Did Graves have to swear fealty to Rahm Emanuel?

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | July 13, 2009 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Even though it is tempting to see partisanship everywhere, Bob Groves is the real deal -- he's a social scientist concerned with getting the most accurate data possible. He has a documented track record on this.

Posted by: gdbenson | July 13, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

well, we can't count Bachman in the census because one look into her eyes pretty much confirms she's a wacked out alien from another planet ..... your next stop, the Bachman Twilight Zone.

Posted by: pookiecat | July 14, 2009 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Graves. What an appropriate name for the person who will send a legitimate census to its grave. Anyone who supports statistical sampling and having ACORN help collect that sampling should not be allowed anywhere near the census. As far Graves' "statistics expertise", we recall Disraeli's description of "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics". And under this 'bum' administration, the three are repeatedly confounded.

Posted by: segeny | July 14, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

I worked for the census in an administrative capacity in 2000, and the waste was unbelievable, and now with Acorn involved, the waste and partisan politics will be worse. I would have considered returning, with the experience I have, but don't think I would like the political favortism that appears to be so prevalent.
This is to be an honest, and acurate count of the American people, not illegals, or anything else.

Posted by: gerry11 | July 14, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I am most concerned that the vast majority of our citizens have no idea of what "statistical sampling" is, or what validated accuracy levels are achieved. The term is bandied about by the media, politicians, and anyone else who wants to jump on the bandwagon - but no one wants to explain what is his, how it works, or why it works!

To clarify a misstatement in an earlier post: The purpose of the census is to count "everyone" living in the United States - whether they are illegals or citizens by birth.

Posted by: vagaf31 | July 14, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

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