An Overview of the 2020 Census

Written by Quinlan Bourret (News Writer)

The 2020 census might notably shift the balance of power in the US in favor of Republicans for a decade. In what many have argued is unconstitutional, Trump has attempted to cut out undocumented immigrants from being counted in the census which might reduce the number of seats held by certain Democratic controlled districts and increase the number of Republican ones. The Supreme Court will be covering the case on November 30, after a lower court blocked Trump. A year ago, a similar proposal by Trump which would ask respondents about their citizenship lost 5-4, but the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg might result in an opposite ruling.

Every ten years, the United States government is required by the Constitution to do a census, measuring the data about the population of the US, counting everyone in the country and detailing their location, age, race, etc. The data is used in many ways but it most notably is needed to determine the number of seats in the House of Representatives for each state. It is used by the government to determine the funding that different communities are owed in various public services. The data is public to all, and is used by business, scientists, and whoever else needs it. 

Being at the end of decade, 2020 was one of the years of a mandate census, but the timing was unfortunate with COVID-19 ravaging the country and a widespread lockdown making in-person visits much more difficult. The Census Bureau, who runs the census, has had to overcome numerous challenges to finish the census. The initial self-response section was digital for the first time, with a 66.7% of the population answering via the internet. The remainder of the population was surveyed with the Nonresponse Followup operation. 

Collection ended on October 15, with a completion rate of 99.98%. The deadline has been extended and shortuned through various court decisions over the past month, changing from October 31 to September 30, to October 5, to finally the current date. During this period, the Census Bureau has repeatedly asked for extended deadlines on both repeatedly, fearing there will not be enough time to get the data. Trump, on the other hand, has attempted to shorten the deadline to make it more difficult for less reachable groups, which tends to be minority groups like Blacks and Latinos. He has also stopped the new release date for the census data, having the data be released on December 31. This is in opposition to a bipartisan bill, the 2020 Census Deadline Extension Act, which is attempting to move the deadline to April, which the Census Bureau has requested. 

Many analysts have claimed that the census will most likely have issues with accuracy, which will not only have political implications, but will also hurt businesses by making their data on where to invest inaccurate and it will further hurt the economy. Since the census needs to be as accurate as possible, and data about undocumented immagrants is nothing more than an estimate, there are fears that Trump’s administration might force in false data, even claiming certain legal citizens to not be. This was especially considered after the administration made an estimate on the number of undocumented immagrants millions higher than nearly all others. 

A combination of political interference, changing dates, and COVID-19 has made the 2020 Census incredibly challenging to work on. Although responses from the population of the US are no longer being received, the question of the release deadline and whether or not Trump will be able to remove undocumented immagrants from the census still loom. The resolutions to these questions may have significant political implications for the next decade.

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