Two weeks ago, the U.S. Census Bureau stopped counting people for the 2020 census. By its own account, the bureau had counted almost all of the people it needed to count. The agency claimed that it had reached 99.9% of U.S. households.
But a new lawsuit from local governments and advocacy groups alleges that those numbers may not be entirely legitimate – that they were falsified by the Census Bureau in order to speed up the decennial head count.
Mike Schneider has been covering this story for the Associated Press. He told Texas Standard that plaintiffs allege census-takers were pressured during the last few days of the count to “close cases at all costs.” That included fudging numbers of completed visits – claiming that a residence was dangerous, or that homeowners didn’t want to speak with census-takers, even though the workers had not attempted to visit.
The original deadline to complete the census count was July 2020, but that deadline was extended to the end of October because of COVID-19.
“But sometime at the end of July, the beginning of August, the Census Bureau decided, No, we’re going to end it at the end of September, and we’re going to cut off a month of counting,” Schneider said.
Advocacy groups sued for the October deadline, ultimately losing the case when the Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuits say the Trump administration ended the census count early in order to benefit its political interests – undercounting unauthorized immigrants and others who, if counted, could give more representation in Congress to Democrats.
“The apportionment count are the numbers that are used to decide how many congressional seats and how many electoral college votes each state gets,” Schneider said.
An early end to the count would also, plaintiffs say, allow the president to manipulate census numbers in a way that would benefit his party’s political interests.
In addition to political representation, census numbers affect the allocation of billions in federal funding.
Plaintiffs want courts to extend the deadline for the Census Bureau to turn over its numbers to the president. It’s currently set for Dec. 31.