Bipartisan senators ask congressional leadership to extend census deadline

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A bipartisan group of senators are asking congressional leaders to include an extension of the statutory deadlines for the 2020 census in the next coronavirus relief package.

In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), 48 senators — including GOP Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and 46 Democrats — said an extension is needed to ensure an accurate count for apportionment and redistrict.

“As you work on the next legislative package to address the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we strongly urge you to extend the statutory deadlines for the delivery of apportionment data and redistricting files following the 2020 Census,” they wrote.

“Extending the deadlines for the delivery of these files in the next COVID-19 relief package will ensure that the Census Bureau has adequate time to complete a full, fair, and accurate 2020 Census. It will also ensure that both the Congress and the states receive accurate data for apportionment and redistricting.” 

The letter cited a request from April from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham that Congress extend the statutory deadlines “for apportionment counts to be delivered to the President by April 30, 2021, and redistricting data to be delivered to the states no later than July 31, 2021.”

Since then, Trump administration has decided to curtail the census’s enumeration period from the end of October to Sept. 30 due to statutory constraints during the coronavirus pandemic.

Census Bureau officials have expressed doubt they could get a proper count completed by the deadline.

“We have passed the point where we could even meet the current legislative requirement of December 31. We can’t do that anymore,” Tim Olson, who leads field operations for the census, said in a May quote cited in the letter.

The letter is just the latest development as the Census Bureau races to complete a full count of the population, with millions of dollars for states and the makeup of House districts on the line.

Current models predict an accurate count would lead Rust Belt States, California and Alabama to lose seats while the Sun Belt, Montana and Oregon would see their congressional delegations grow. One study estimated that a state gets around $2,000 in federal money over the next decade for every person counted as a resident.

The decennial population count has already been thrust into uncertainty with the tightened timeline sparking fears that hard-to-reach communities, particularly communities of color, could be undercounted.

Meanwhile, President Trump in July issued an order seeking to block undocumented immigrants from being counted in the 2020 census for the purpose of allocating congressional representation, though that measure was met with swift legal challenges.

Tags 2020 Census Census Bureau Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Dan Sullivan Donald Trump Kevin McCarthy Lisa Murkowski Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Redistricting U.S. Census Bureau United States Census Wilbur Ross

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