Census Bureau to Cut 2020 Count Short, Sparking Fears Many Will Be Left Out

The Census Bureau has announced plans to cut its 2020 counting efforts short by a full month, sparking fears that many, including people of color and immigrants, could be left out this year.

In a statement published on Monday evening, the Census Bureau said it would be ending its field data collection by September 30, a month earlier than had been expected.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, counting for the 2020 census had been set to wrap up by the end of July. However, in the midst of the outbreak, the bureau said it would need more time. It pushed the deadline back to October 31, with the public support of President Donald Trump.

The decision to end the extension early, the Census Bureau said, was made to ensure that apportionment, which sees the 435 seats in the House of Representatives divvied up according to population sizes, was completed ahead of the statutory deadline of December 31.

But while the Census Bureau maintained that it still "intends to meet a similar level of household responses as collected in prior censuses, including outreach to hard-to-count communities," many responded to the announcement with skepticism and concerns that the change could see people across the country left out.

"This is a massive scandal," Ari Berman, the author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights, wrote in a tweet.

"If you haven't already, fill out 2020 census NOW. It takes 5 min, you can do online [and the] future of American democracy depends on it."

ProPublica journalist Dara Lind also expressed concerns, telling followers to "make sure you have submitted your census information" and "make sure everyone you know has submitted their census information."

"Participation is important," Lind said. "And you have less time than expected."

As it stands, roughly 4 out of 10 households have yet to be counted in the 2020 Census, according to NPR, which had first reported the possibility of data-collection efforts ending early.

Democratic lawmakers and census advocates have repeatedly expressed fears the White House is pressuring the Census Bureau to curtail counting efforts so Republicans can benefit when House seats are reapportioned and voting districts are redrawn.

Meanwhile, immigration and civil rights advocates have further accused the Trump administration of seeking to rush the census to block immigrants, people of color and other marginalized groups from being counted, with the government already having sought to have undocumented immigrants excluded from the census.

"The Trump administration is doing everything it can to sabotage the 2020 Census so that it reflects an inaccurate and less diverse portrait of America," Vanita Gupta, the president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, wrote in an opinion piece published on Monday by The Washington Post. "Its latest effort involves quietly compressing the census timeline to all but guarantee a massive undercount."

"Rushing census operations, as the administration is attempting to do, ensures the bureau won't count millions of people—especially those hit hardest by the pandemic," Gupta said. "It will leave the country with inaccurate numbers that deprive communities of resources, political power and the federal assistance necessary to recover from the pandemic for the next 10 years."

"The 2020 Census is the largest, most complex population count in the nation's history—one made more difficult by the emergence of COVID-19 and the Trump administration's ongoing efforts to undermine a decade of careful planning by the Census Bureau," Gupta asserted.

However, she said, "because the census determines funding for resources such as hospitals and health care, public schools, and infrastructure—as well as the number of seats in Congress each state receives and how legislative districts are drawn—it is imperative to get the count right."

Newsweek has contacted the Census Bureau and the White House for comment.

2020 Census
The U.S. Census logo appears on census materials received in the mail with an invitation to fill out census information online on March 19, 2020 in San Anselmo, California. The Census Bureau has announced plans to cut data collection efforts short by a month. Justin Sullivan/Getty