08.13.20

Reed, Whitehouse Call for Extension of Census Deadlines to Ensure Full, Accurate Count

Bipartisan group of 48 Senators urge extension be included in next COVID-19 relief package

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse joined a bipartisan group of 46 U.S. Senators in calling for the extension of the statutory deadlines for the delivery of apportionment data and redistricting files following the 2020 Census. The 48 Senators urged Congress to include the extension in a COVID-19 relief package.

The U.S. Constitution requires a population census every ten years and the census count to be reported to the President by December 31 of that year. A change to that date would require Congressional action. The Trump Administration previously requested an extension in April of this year, but reversed course on August 3, 2020 and announced that Census self-response and field operations would end on September 30, 2020.

“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 48 Senators wrote in their letter to House and Senate leaders.

Citing a request first made by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham to extend the deadlines for reporting apportionment counts to the President from December 31, 2020 to April 30, 2021 and redistricting data to the states from March 31, 2021 to July 31, 2021 the senators underscored the need to give the Census Bureau adequate time to collect and report an accurate count following delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. At that time, the Census Bureau also said they would continue counting efforts until October 31, 2020.

Recently, the Trump Administration reversed course by shortening the enumeration period from October 31 to September 30, 2020, limiting the time for the Census Bureau to try to complete an accurate count.

Last week, Reed and Whitehouse led a letter to the Commerce Secretary opposing the curtailment of data collection activities.

In addition to Reed and Whitehouse the letter is signed by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chris Coons (D-DE), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy:

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.

On April 13, 2020, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they would be adjusting 2020 Census operations. At the same time, they had requested that the 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.” This would have given the Census Bureau adequate time to compile the data sets in light of the delayed enumeration window. However, the administration has reversed course and shortened the enumeration period from October 31 to September 30, 2020, citing these statutory constraints.

Career Census Bureau staff have indicated that they cannot meet the existing statutory deadlines. In May 2020, the census official leading field operations, Tim Olson, stated, “We have passed the point where we could even meet the current legislative requirement of December 31. We can’t do that anymore.” And in July, the associate director of the census, Albert Fontenot, said, “We are past the window of being able to get those counts” by year’s end.

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. We thank you for your consideration of our request.

Sincerely,