Robert Groves Confirmed as Census Director
Updated 6:14 p.m. ET
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."
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