2020 Census Ruling Causes Further Disorder and Uncertainty for An Accurate Count

October 14, 2020
2020 Census Ruling Causes Further Disorder and Uncertainty for An Accurate Count

For Immediate Release

Contact: Tina Pinedo
202.408.9514 x119
[email protected]

Washington, DC – The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is greatly disappointed with the U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to end 2020 Census operations early following the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Now, Congress must act to act to ensure a fair, accurate and accessible census count.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted the Census Bureau’s request to end census operations before October 31. As a result, the Census Bureau announced that self-response and field data collection operations for the 2020 Census will conclude on October 15, 2020.

“It has been a long, turbulent road for the 2020 Census, and the most recent announcement by the Census Bureau to end operations early only further results in disorder and uncertainty for a fair, accurate and accessible count,” said Curt Decker, NDRN’s Executive Director. “So far, the efforts to achieving a fair and accurate census have encountered a global pandemic, natural disasters, displacement, operational challenges beyond belief, but despite it all, people across the country have come together to ensure everyone gets counted. Now is not the time to end operations early and risk massive undercounts of every community in America for the next decade.”

Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agencies across the country have been working to ensure a fair, accurate and accessible count and have learned first-hand how certain operational challenges have impacted the 2020 Census. For instance, Alaska’s P&A, Disability Law Center of Alaska (DLC), alerted Census Bureau officials that outdated 2010 data was being used to count people living in Assisted Living Homes (ALHs) in the state. DLC helped the Census Bureau update the information and make sure the missing ALHs received the Group Quarter Enumeration packet in time to be counted. If it were not for DLC, hundreds of people in Alaska could have been missed in the 2020 Census emphasizing the need to continue census operations and extend data tabulation to ensure people are not missed or undercounted in this year’s census.

Given the current public health crisis, and endless operational challenges as evidenced in the state of Alaska alone, the Census Bureau officials themselves have stated that they simply cannot process the data within any acceptable data quality standards in two months to ensure an accurate census.

“There is no reason the census should be rushed. Congress has to act and ensure the census is successful,” continued Decker.

To ensure a fair, accurate, and accessible 2020 Census, NDRN urges Congress to quickly pass the bipartisan and bicameral 2020 Census Deadline Extensions Act so that the Census Bureau does not rush critical data review, processing, and tabulation activities.


In order to better understand the context and series of events leading up to this most recent Census Bureau announcement, NDRN has summarized a timeline relating to the 2020 Census. The timeline begins in April 2020, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic:

Originally, the self-response deadline was July 31, 2020. The operations window was from January 21, 2020 to July 31, 2020 and was set to conclude on July 31, 2020 and the data tabulation was expected to be delivered to the President by December 31, 2020.

In April 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau adjusted its 2020 operations in order to protect the health and safety of the American public. One of the operational adjustments announced included extending 2020 Census operations by four months, permitting households to self-respond to the census until October 31, and allowing the critical Nonresponse Followup (NRFU) operation, when Census takers interview households in person, to conclude in late October instead of July 31, 2020 as originally planned.

On April 13, 2020, the Census Bureau requested that Congress also extend the statutory reporting deadlines for apportionment and redistricting by four months. The Census Bureau has the legal authority to extend its own operations, but only Congress has the authority to extend the reporting deadlines as set forth by law. The Census Bureau asked that Congress:

  1. Extend the statutory deadline for submitting apportionment data, the data used to determine how many Representatives each state is allotted, from December 31, 2020 to April 30, 2021, and;
  2. Extend the statutory deadline for transmitting redistricting data to states and localities from March 31, 2021 to July 31, 2021.

Despite the previous statement from the Census Bureau indicating that an extension in 2020 Census operations was necessary to ensure a fair and accurate count given the challenges brought by COVID-19, in early August 2020, the Census Bureau announced its plan to end all field operations early on September 30, 2020, and not in late October as previously announced.

On September 15, 2020, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) along with Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) introduced bicameral, bipartisan legislation, the 2020 Census Deadline Extensions Act. The legislation extends two key statutory deadlines for the 2020 Census by four months and requires the Census Bureau to continue field operations through October 31, 2020.

On September 24, 2020, a California federal district court judge issued a Preliminary Injunction in the National Urban League v. Ross case prohibiting the Administration from further implementing the “rushed census plan” that had forced the Census Bureau to finish data collection by September 30 and to process, tabulate, and report to the president state population totals used for congressional apportionment by the current statutory deadline of December 31, 2020. Following that ruling, the government appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On September 28, 2020, the Census Bureau announced that “the Secretary of Commerce has announced a target date of October 5, 2020 to conclude 2020 Census self-response and field data collection operations.”

On October 1, 2020, the California federal court judge presiding over the National Urban League v. Ross case on census deadlines ordered the government to issue on October 2, 2020 a new text message to all Census Bureau employees notifying them of the Court’s Injunction Order, stating that the October 5, 2020 “target date” is not operative, and stating that data collection operations will continue through October 31, 2020.

On October 2, 2020, the Census Bureau sent the following message to census takers working on the 2020 Census: “As a result of court orders, the October 5, 2020 target date is not operative, and data collection operations will continue through October 31, 2020. Employees should continue to work diligently and enumerate as many people as possible. Contact your supervisor with any questions.”

# # #

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.