Census Deadline is Cut Short; But Why?


Louisiana Unemployed Power Coalition for Equity and Justice Joins NAACP Election Lawsuit 

This week, the Trump Administration announced its plan to cut the 2020 Census deadline short by one month, moving it from October 31 to September 30. Critics argue that the move is intended to disenfranchise poor communities and communities of color.  

NEW ORLEANS, LA | August 5, 2020—On August 3, 2020, the Census Bureau issued a statement saying it “will end field data collection by September 30, 2020,” and that “self-response options will also close [on that date] to permit data processing commencement.” The new deadline is a month sooner than had been previously announced by the bureau.

An article in The New York Times about the Bureau’s change of course noted widespread dissatisfaction with the move from experts across the political spectrum, including four former directors of the Census Bureau who served under Democratic and Republican presidents. Those directors issued a statement warning that an earlier deadline would “result in seriously incomplete enumerations in many areas across our country,” and urged the administration to restore the lost weeks, and asked Congress to bring together experts who could develop a set of standards that would help assess the quality of the bureau’s population totals.

Shortening the count presents a huge range of problems, many of them disproportionately impacting communities of color.

“Ensuring a fair and accurate count in the 2020 U.S. Census is essential to the communities we serve at the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice (PCEJ),” said Janea Jamison, who is the Count Me In Campaign Director at the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, an organization that focuses on civic engagement in communities of color across Louisiana. “The Census determines how and where billions of federal dollars get spent, and every time someone goes uncounted, Louisiana loses out on $2,291. So far, the national self-response rate is the lowest in history, which will require census takers to collect responses in person from more people than ever before. I urge everyone to complete the Census and call your Senators to ask them to extend the statutory reapportionment and National Census deadlines.”

Back in April, the Census Bureau asked to extend this year’s deadline to October 31 due to concerns over the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on completing a full and fair count. That request was approved by the United States House of Representative, but not in the Senate. The Senate’s lack of action left the door open for this week’s move, which will limit the amount of time to collect those in-person responses that Ms. Jamison spoke of.

Cutting the Census deadline short presents numerous problems. The Census count is used to determine hundred of billions of dollars in federal aid over the next decade. That is especially important in a state with a high poverty rate, like Louisiana, that relies so heavily on federal funding. Census data also helps determine political representation, since it is used to redraw local, state, and federal political maps. 

“The end result would be [overrepresentation] for the White non-Hispanic population, and greater undercounts for all other populations including the traditionally hard-to-count,” former Census Bureau Director John Thompson wrote in an article for NPR.

“The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and our partners will continue to press our efforts to make sure everyone in Louisiana gets counted,” said PCEJ Executive Director Ashey Shelton, “especially Black and Brown people in lower income communities, who represent the populations that are traditionally undercounted, underfunded, and underrepresented. But we also urge the Census Bureau to rethink this change, and to re-extend the deadline to October 31 so we have more time to reach hard-to-count communities across Louisiana.”

The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice works to build voice and power in traditionally ignored communities. We are a coalition of groups from across Louisiana whose mission is to organize in impacted communities, educate and turn out voters, and fight for policies that create a more equitable and just system in Louisiana.

Who: Power Coalition for Equity and Justice

What: Power Coalition for Equity and Justice responds to announcement by the U.S. Census Bureau that it will cut the deadline for the 2020 Census count short by a month.

When: August 5, 2020


Ashley Shelton, Executive Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, (225) 802-2435, ashelton@powercoalition.org

Peter Robins-Brown, Communications Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, (504) 256-8196, prb@powercoalition.org