Congress Must Extend 2020 Census Deadlines to Ensure a Fair and Accurate Count

September 15, 2020
Congress Must Extend 2020 Census Deadlines to Ensure a Fair and Accurate Count

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) urges Congress to extend the 2020 Census statutory reporting deadlines for apportionment and redistricting in order to address the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and urge the U.S. Census Bureau to abandon its plan to end 2020 Census operations early.

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

Following the Census Bureau’s announcement of 2020 Census operational adjustments the Census Bureau requested 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 previous statements 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 the Census Bureau announced its plan to end all field operations early on September 30th, and not in late October as previously announced.

“The Census Bureau has made it abundantly clear for months now that in order for them to fulfill the constitutional mandate of counting every “persons” in the U.S. they need more time given the current health crisis,” said NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker. “Cutting 2020 operations short will lead to massive undercounts of every community in the U.S. and will create devastating impacts for every community in the country for the next ten years.”

On September 15, 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.  

NDRN urges Congress to pass the 2020 Census Deadline Extensions Act so that the Census Bureau is not forced to rush remaining enumeration operations and critical data review, processing, and tabulation activities.   

“Congress must now ensure people with disabilities, people of color and other communities are able to fully participate in the 2020 Census and receive the resources and fair representation they deserve,” continued Decker.

America will have to live with the results from the 2020 Census for the next ten years and we only get one chance to make sure every single person is counted. The 2020 Census cannot be rushed. NDRN calls upon Congress to support the Census Bureau’s original request of extending the census reporting deadlines by passing the 2020 Census Deadline Extensions Act to ensure this year’s census represents us all.

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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 P&A/CAP Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.

This resource was originally posted on August 4, 2020. Edits were made on September 15, 2020, to reflect the most updated information.