The U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday that field operations, including door-knocking, will end on September 30, a month earlier than previously planned. The abrupt change to the Census deadline has many advocates concerned about the government’s ability to obtain an accurate count of people in the U.S., especially those living in poverty, immigrants, and members of other historically undercounted groups.
“Donald Trump is trying to #StealTheCensus to keep the GOP in power for another decade, regardless of what voters want,” New York’s Census Director Julie Menin tweeted in response to the news. Ending Census efforts early “will likely leave millions uncounted, underfunded and underrepresented for the next decade,” she wrote.
U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham explained in a statement Monday that the move was made in order to meet the end-of-year deadline for completing the count. Prior to the pandemic, the Census was scheduled to end at the end of last month. But in April, the deadline to collect Census responses was extended to the end of October. Efforts to extend the December 31 completion deadline have won Democratic support in Congress, but no Republicans are onboard, NPR reports.
Despite a promise from Dillingham that the Bureau will not be “sacrificing completeness,” advocates are concerned about who will be left out of the count. So far, 93 million households, or just under two-thirds of the nation’s households, have responded to the Census. Canvassing efforts attempt to reach those who did not respond without the extra prodding. “Often those households include immigrants, people of color and low-income people,” civil-rights lawyer Vinita Gupta wrote in the Washington Post Monday. “But the administration is hellbent on scaring marginalized communities away from census participation.”
Gupta wrote that moving forward the deadline is part of a broader effort by the Trump administration “to suppress minority representation and gain political advantage.” The other key to that effort is Trump’s continued attempt to prevent undocumented people from filing out the Census, a move that is plainly unconstitutional.