The Census Bureau is shutting down its decennial census counting operations this week, after the Trump administration received an okay from the Supreme Court to end the survey’s data collection two weeks earlier than what the bureau had planned.
The online option for self-responding to the census will close at 11:59 p.m. Thursday in Hawaii’s time zone — or early Friday morning for most Americans. Other options for responding will end a few hours earlier, and the field operations for counting people who have not responded on their own will shut down by the end of the day on Thursday.
The administration had tried to cut four weeks off of the data collection period of the census, part of an accelerated plan announced in early August to wrap up the census in time to deliver President Trump its apportionment data by the end of the year. The data determines the number of House seats each state gets.
Trump’s move to speed up the count was challenged in court, and lower courts ordered that the counting should continue until Oct. 31., which is the date the bureau had initially set as part of a reworked calendar once the pandemic began scrambling its operations.
The Trump administration fought aggressively to cut the counting short, and on Tuesday obtained a Supreme Court order putting on hold the lower courts’ directives.
The effort to end data collection early prompted major concerns among civil rights advocates, the business community, statisticians and other stakeholders who depend on the census. The bureau’s own experts said repeatedly over the spring and summer that they needed additional time to finish the count. The Trump administration, including President Trump himself, initially supported the idea of giving the bureau several extra months. An undercount is most likely to affect minority communities, lower income people and those living in rural areas.
But just as concerning is what the administration has planned for the next phase in the survey’s process, during which the bureau processes the data and does all kinds of quality checks to assure the data’s accuracy. Usually the process is given about five months. But under the expedited plan unveiled in August, the bureau will be given around half that time. That shortcut poses “serious risk” to the data’s accuracy, according to a presentation the bureau gave Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in early August.
The Trump administration claims that it sought to speed up the count because Congress had failed to grant a four-month extension to the bureau’s statutory Dec. 31 apportionment deadline. However, the Trump administration backed off its efforts to secure that extension at the same time that the President announced an apportionment policy to exclude undocumented immigrants from that count.
Many census observers see a link between the White House’s extension reversal and the anti-immigrant policy, which is also being challenged in court. Had the four-month extensions for the count been granted, there is no guarantee Trump would still be in office to implement the policy, since under that extended timeline, apportionment would not happen until April.
Here is more information, via the Census Bureau’s website, on the bureau’s plans to end counting:
Internet self-response will be available across the nation through October 15, 2020 until 11:59 pm Hawaii Standard Time (HST), (6:00 am Eastern Daylight Time on October 16, 2020) Visit 2020Census.gov to respond today.
Phone response will be available for its regularly scheduled time on October 15, 2020. Click here for schedule and a list of numbers.
Paper responses must be postmarked by October 15, 2020.
Nonresponse Followup census takers will continue resolving nonresponding addresses through the end of the day on October 15, 2020.