The Census Bureau announced that the 2020 census count will end on September 30 rather than October 31 as previously reported. Originally, counting for the census was supposed to be completed by the end of July. But the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible for door-to-door visits by census workers and the deadline was extended to October 31.
A lot is riding on the census numbers. Not only will government benefits be divvied up based on its findings, but congressional representation will be determined as well.
But about 4 in 10 American households have yet to return a census form either through the mail or online. In-person visits from census workers will resume on August 11 and the census bureau says they will be able to complete the count earlier in order to meet the December 31 deadline established by the Constitution.
These last-minute changes to the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the U.S. threaten the accuracy of population numbers used to determine the distribution of political representation and federal funding for the next decade.
With roughly 4 out of 10 households nationwide yet to be counted, and already delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, 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.
The historic reluctance of illegal aliens to respond to the census is well documented, so it’s unclear how extending the deadline to end the count will include them. There are millions of others who simply refuse to be interviewed for any number of reasons. The liberal hand-wringing over counting every single person in America is ludicrous because it’s a physical impossibility to count 320 million people.
But it’s another convenient club with which to hit Trump and the GOP.
Democrats in Congress and many census advocates have become increasingly concerned that the White House is pressuring the bureau to stop counting soon in order to benefit Republicans when House seats are reapportioned and voting districts are redrawn.
The bureau is collecting a jillion gigabytes of data and has a constitutionally mandated deadline to meet. They are not going to be able to reach everyone. This is no different than any other census, despite the best efforts of the bureau.
The September 30 cutoff for counting is probably still too late. Officials at the census bureau have asked Congress for a 4-month extension of that end-of-year deadline so they can keep counting another month, but even that would probably fall short of what’s needed.
There will be lawsuits (of course) by liberal groups because census workers didn’t count illegals or other groups who vote Democratic. But given the severity of the pandemic, it’s a wonder the census will be able to count as many Americans as they will.