WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined his Senate Democratic colleagues in a letter urging U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to reverse the Trump Administration’s announcement that would cut Census data collection operations short by one month.
The once a decade count, which is mandated by the Constitution, helps set federal funding levels that affect everything from schools, roads, and hospitals to representation in Congress. Due to the challenges associated with the pandemic, officials extended the deadline for conducting the count to October 31. However, in an illogical and seemingly political decision, the Trump Administration announced this week that they plan to end the count earlier, despite COVID cases spiking in communities across the country.
As a result of the new September 30 deadline, there are only 56 days left for Census door knockers to go door-to-door to collect responses from 37 percent of the country – and 32 percent of Ohioans – who have not self-responded. These efforts are complicated due to the prevalence of COVID-19 and mistrust in many communities due to a number of actions by the Trump Administration, including those ruled illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court. Communities all across Ohio – from Appalachia to our cities, towns and villages – are at risk of being undercounted with this shortened field operation.
“This appears to be yet another effort to sabotage a successful Census, which include the Administration’s earlier attempts to add an unnecessary and divisive citizenship question and the recent issuance of a memorandum seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants for apportionment purposes. Ending operations early, especially Nonresponse Follow Up, will disproportionately disadvantage hard-to-count communities,” the senators wrote.
“We urge you to immediately reverse this decision and take all necessary steps to ensure a full, fair, and accurate Decennial Census,” the 24 senators concluded.
The letter was led by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), and it was also signed by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-ME), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
Full text of the letter follows:
Dear Secretary Ross:
We write to express our deep concern and opposition to the Administration’s decision to end Census field data collection activities by September 30 – one month earlier than previously planned. This self-imposed curtailment of operations will have a devastating impact on the accuracy and completeness of the Decennial Census.
The Decennial Census has faced unique challenges due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). With field operations delayed and reduced significantly in order to help ensure the safety of respondents and Census employees, ending operations early will make an accurate and complete count impossible.
This appears to be yet another effort to sabotage a successful Census, which include the Administration’s earlier attempts to add an unnecessary and divisive citizenship question and the recent issuance of a memorandum seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants for apportionment purposes. Ending operations early, especially Nonresponse Follow Up, will disproportionately disadvantage hard-to-count communities.
A full accounting of everyone present in the United States is required by the Constitution and is critical to the allocation of trillions of dollars of federal funding and proper Congressional apportionment. Data derived from the Decennial Census influences decisions made across all levels of government and by businesses of all sizes. Rushing the completion of the Census, distorting response rates, and short-circuiting data assurance activities will have disastrous consequences that will reverberate for years to come.
As such, we urge you to immediately reverse this decision and take all necessary steps to ensure a full, fair, and accurate Decennial Census.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.