Commentary: Census requires common sense

California, like other states, has been preparing for months to count everybody for the 2010 census. That count of the "whole number of persons in each State," required by the U.S. Constitution every 10 years, determines each state's representation in Congress. It also determines allocations of federal funds for schools, hospitals, roads and other programs.

The stakes are particularly high for California, which has been hit hard by foreclosures and job losses. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger worries that the state may lose a congressional seat after the count. That would be a first in California's 159-year history.

So when symbolic gestures come along that could derail a count, Californians should be wary – and redouble efforts to get a full, accurate count.

At one extreme is Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana. Just five months before the 10-question census is to be sent to every residence in the country, he proposed to cut off all funding unless a question on citizenship is added.

Vitter believes that noncitizens should not be included in the census for the purposes of determining representation in Congress. But a mere census question can't change that.

The U.S. Constitution is clear: "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State." There's no mention of citizenship.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.