Prematurely Stopping 2020 Census Data Collection Could Lead to Inaccuracy that Harms Communities

August 5, 2020, Washington, D.C.—On Monday, the Trump Administration announced yet another outrageous and divisive tactic to disrupt and damage the 2020 census: forcing a premature stop to the gathering of responses to the census, potentially leading to a deeply inaccurate and flawed count. The Census Bureau issued a statement saying that it will end field data collection and self-response options by September 30, contradicting its earlier plan to take until October 31 to allow census workers—whose fieldwork was postponed for months due to the pandemic—to successfully complete the count. The decision to rush the census count in the midst of a pandemic seriously jeopardizes the accuracy of the count, with devastating results for the nation.

“A rushed and inaccurate count means getting all of that wrong,” said Olivia Golden, executive director at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “It means people will lose their voice in democracy and will lose out on critical services. It means our nation will suffer greatly. It means failing to make crucial investments in people and communities that are undercounted, including those who are historically missed and those who have been hit hardest this year by instability caused by the pandemic and the recession—such as children, young people, people of color, and immigrants and their families. We risk depriving schools and hospitals of the money they desperately need, depriving undercounted cities and rural communities of the democratic representation they deserve, and silencing the voices of undercounted young people and their communities.”

The decennial census undergirds our democracy—the census is mandated in the Constitution to provide a basis for allocating Congressional seats. And, it provides the data that direct over $800 billion dollars in federal funding, including for Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Head Start, along with countless other decisions, such as the location of health and education services and innumerable choices by community leaders, public officials, and private sector firms nationwide.

“CLASP joins our partners and allies in the nonprofit and civil rights community in expressing strong opposition to this decision. It’s critically important that every individual residing in the United States be counted in the 2020 census. People who have not already done so should fill out the form now. Meanwhile, Congress must take immediate action to require the reasonable timetable originally proposed by the Census Bureau’s experts, support the accuracy of the census, and protect it from future attacks,” said Golden.