IG: Census Bureau did not order to shorten 2020 census

Census Bureau did not order the census' schedule to collect data to be shortened, a new report from the Commerce Department's inspector general said. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI

Sept. 23 (UPI) — The Commerce Department’s internal watchdog said in a report that the decision to shorten the census’ schedule for collecting data was made by officials outside of the Census Bureau, leading some officials to speculate that the decision was made by the White House.

In a report published Tuesday, the Inspector General of the Commerce Department said it found that officials outside of the Census Bureau made the decision for it to end door-to-door counting of the decennial effort a month early and that no senior officials, including the director, knows who issued the order.

The report said the lack of information has some Census Bureau officials speculating the decision either came from the Commerce Department or from the White House.

“Some Bureau officials speculated the decision came from the Department, while others thought the decision likely came from the White House,” the report said. “However, Bureau officials confirmed that the decision was not the Bureau’s.”

The report also found that the accelerated schedule increases the risks of obtaining a complete and accurate 2020 census, which will be used to allocate state seats in the House of Representatives and government funding.

The report was issued after the inspector general’s office received several congressional inquiries expressing concern about the Aug. 3 announcement by Steven Dillingham, the director of the Census Bureau, that field data collection would end by Sept. 30 instead of Oct. 31.

The Census Bureau kicked off its door-knocking effort on Jan. 21, the same day the United States reported its first case of COVID-19, which would force the bureau in April to suspend field data collection and to push its deadline from the end of July to the end of October.

According to the Census Bureau’s website, nearly 96% of housing units have been counted nationwide with 10 states reporting below 95%, including Alabama at 89%, with a week until the door efforts are to end.

Following reports over the summer that the Trump administration was seeking to fast-track the census’ counting, the House committee on oversight and reform held an emergency hearing during which Dillingham refused to comment as to why Trump would want to compress the schedule.

On Sept. 10, a federal court blocked President Donald Trump’s order preventing undocumented immigrants from being included in the census and last week, a federal judge blocked the government from slowing down the census’ operations through to Thursday, continuing an injunction placed in early September.

On Tuesday, the National Urban League filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s plan to shorten the census.

In the lawsuit, civil rights groups, civic organizations and local governments accused the administration of using the census to skew seats in the House of Representatives.

“Both the text of the Rush Plan announcement and the timing of the decision suggest that the federal government’s motivation for the Rush Plan is to facilitate another illegal act: suppressing the political power of communities of color by excluding undocumented people from the final apportionment count,” the lawsuits states. “To increase the chance that the President can fully effectuate the apportionment exclusion order, he must receive the population totals while he is still in office.”


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