Census Cuts Itself Short, Many Fear 'Massive Undercount'

Census Bureau reportedly ending door-knocking efforts earlier than expected amid WH pressure
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2020 7:35 AM CDT
Census Workers Fear 'Massive Undercount' Over Date Change
In this June 25, 2020, file photo, two young children hold signs through a car window that make reference to the 2020 US census as they wait in the car with their family at an outreach event in Dallas.   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

About 40% of US homes haven't responded to census questionnaires for this year's mandated count, so the Census Bureau has started sending out door knockers. But those efforts may be cut short, amid an apparent push by the bureau to wrap things up much earlier than expected—a move that congressional Democrats fear is due to pressure from the White House. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Trump administration last week requested nearly $450 million from the Senate Appropriations Committee in the next COVID-19 package to help complete the 2020 census in a "timely" manner, without defining "timely." Now, three Census Bureau employees tell NPR that canvassing involving up to half a million door knockers is set to end Sept. 30—a full month before the Oct. 31 deadline initially indicated to make up lost ground due to the coronavirus.

The Census Bureau's site notes "accelerated efforts to complete our field data collection as quickly, and safely as possible," though it still has Oct. 31 listed as the end date for self-response. "It's going to be impossible to complete the count in time," one of the bureau's area managers tells NPR. "I'm very fearful we're going to have a massive undercount." The Times notes the huge importance of such numbers, as they're used to redistribute all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, plus thousands of state and local districts. By wrapping the count up early, it could leave out many immigrants and people of color—which some fear is the goal of the Trump administration for reapportionment purposes. The Census Bureau's response, via a statement: "We are currently evaluating our operations to enable the Census Bureau to provide this data in the most expeditious manner and when those plans have been finalized we will make an announcement." (More US Census stories.)

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