Census Announces Early End to 2020 Operations, Jeopardizing Accuracy of the Count

Census Bureau Director Stephen Dillingham announced that the Census Bureau will cut short its counting operations for the 2020 Census by a full month in order to produce apportionment counts by its legally mandated deadline of December 31, 2020. According to the announcement, the Census Bureau will end field data and self-response collection on September 30, rather than October 31 as previously planned. This change comes months after the Census Bureau itself asked Congress to delay the deadline for producing apportionment counts in order to allow more time to recover from the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the House’s most recent COVID-19 relief package would delay this deadline to give the Bureau more time, the Senate’s does not (see related article).

Although the change appears to be prompted by Congress’s failure to adjust the apportionment deadline, many Census stakeholders see it as part of a broader attempt by the Trump Administration to sabotage efforts to produce a full and accurate count, particularly of minority communities. They point to the protracted battle over the failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the questionnaire as well as President Trump’s recent (likely unconstitutional) order to exclude unauthorized immigrants from apportionment counts. As minority and immigrant communities are among the hardest-to-count populations, a truncated enumeration period would likely result in an undercount of these groups.

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