The Slatest

Trump Administration Is Discontinuing the Census Count a Month Early. But Why?

The U.S. Census logo appears on census materials received in the mail with an invitation to fill out census information online.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Census Bureau announced Monday it will cut short its nationwide count by a full month, raising concerns that the 2020 tally will be a rushed, incomplete picture of the American population. The worry among Democrats is that that’s exactly the point and it will be historically underrepresented groups that will fall through the cracks, skewing America’s picture of itself, as well as a decade of political representation and federal funding that is derived from the constitutionally mandated count. The original July deadline had been extended earlier this year to the end of October due to the coronavirus. Senior census officials had already warned completing the count even in that time frame was no longer possible. Now, the time horizon will get even shorter.

Nearly 40 percent of American households still have not self-responded to the census, meaning a huge swath of the population remains uncounted and “the bureau now has less than two months left to try to reach people of color, immigrants, renters, rural residents and other members of historically undercounted groups who are not likely to fill out a census form on their own,” NPR reports. “The bureau’s announcement comes after […] the agency had decided to cut short door-knocking efforts for the 2020 census. Those in-person interviews with unresponsive households started last month in some parts of the country and are set to expand nationwide on Aug. 11.” Those efforts will now need to be wrapped up a full month earlier than anticipated. But why?

The bureau, in April, had asked Congress to delay the Dec. 31 reporting requirement, requesting a four-month extension in submitting the numbers to the president. These are extraordinary times of course and the rationale behind the request was to “ensure the completeness and accuracy of the 2020 Census,” Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said then. The bureau now says it has a plan to “accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts” by the end of the year. “The Census Bureau and others really want us to proceed as rapidly as possible,” Dillingham testified before Congress last week.

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