“Providing the Census Bureau with the Time to Produce a Complete and Accurate Census”
On Thursday, September 10, 2020, at 11:00 a.m., Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing on the need for legislative action to extend the statutory deadlines for the Census in light of the coronavirus crisis.
In response to a request from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham, the House passed statutory extensions as part of the Heroes Act in May. Chairwoman Maloney also introduced stand-alone legislation, the Fair and Accurate Census Act.
However, in July, the Trump Administration abruptly reversed course. Instead of supporting its own request for legislation to extend the deadlines, it cut back operations aimed at reaching the hardest to count communities. On August 3, 2020, Director Dillingham announced that the Census Bureau would cut short Self-Response and Nonresponse Follow-up by a full month, and data processing operations by 60 days.
On September 2, 2020, the Committee released an internal Census Bureau analysis that was presented to Secretary Ross on August 3, 2020—the same date the Administration announced that it was cutting short field and data processing operations. The document warned that forcing the Census Bureau to complete the Census without extending the statutory deadlines could significantly degrade its accuracy and completeness.
On September 5, 2020, the Census Bureau echoed these concerns in a sworn declaration filed in federal litigation, stating the new schedule would require cutting 21 days from “expert matter review and software error remediation” and explaining “[t]hese changes increase the risk the Census Bureau will not identify errors during post processing in time to fix them.”
Citing the likelihood of “irreparable harm” as a result of inaccurate census data, the judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Commerce Department and Census Bureau from implementing the shortened Census schedule until a September 17 court hearing.
J. Christopher Mihm
Managing Director, Strategic Issues Team
Government Accountability Office
John H. Thompson
Census Bureau (2013-2017)
Stephen Roe Lewis
Governor, Gila River Indian Community
Executive Director, NC Counts Coalition
Hans A. von Spakovsky (Minority Witness)
Senior Legal Fellow, Heritage Foundation