Whitmer bashes Trump admin. for curtailing census effort

The last day to fill out the census is now sooner than planned

President Donald J. Trump, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, at the InterContinental New York Barclay in New York City. | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead via Flickr Public Domain

The U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday it is moving up the deadline for all census operations by a month, leaving just over eight weeks left to make sure that everyone is counted. That’s raised the ire of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and others.

Initially, census takers had until Oct. 31 to conduct surveys, but now all in-person, online, phone and mail operations will end Sept. 30.

As the Advance previously reported, the Census Bureau quietly moved the end date for door-to-door operations and left a number of unanswered questions for statewide campaigns, some of which, including Michigan’s “Be Counted” census campaign, were never informed of the change at all. 

“These last-minute, under-the-cover-of-darkness changes to the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in Michigan and the U.S. threaten the accuracy of population numbers used to determine the distribution of political representation and federal funding for the next decade,” Whitmer said in a statement Tuesday. “Cutting short operations by a month will seriously impact the ability of the U.S. Census Bureau to deliver an accurate and complete count, and in turn hurt American families everywhere.”

The 2020 campaign was Michigan’s largest census campaign in state history, with an unprecedented $16 million allocated by the state Legislature for census outreach and participation. 

U.S. Census Bureau cuts short door-to-door effort, could cost Michigan

One of the main focuses of the campaign was to reach the state’s “hard to count” communities, which defined by the U.S. Census Bureau are hard to locate, hard to interview, hard to contact and hard to persuade. 

These communities are usually composed of young people, racial minorities, people with low incomes, people experiencing homelessness and undocumented immigrants.  

“This is a blatant attempt by the Trump administration to exclude people of color, immigrants, renters, rural residents and other members of historically undercounted groups from being counted in the Census,” Whitmer said. 

The census determines how much federal funding Michigan receives for public safety, health care, education, roads and infrastructure through 2030. 

Keshia Morris Desir, the census project manager for the Washington, D.C.-based government watchdog organization Common Cause, says this change in timeline is a political move by the Trump administration. 

“Black, Latino, Native American, children under the age of 5, immigrant and rural communities will all be undercounted and shortchanged by a condensed count. That means they will get less funding for hospitals, schools and roads. And they will get less representation in Congress, but that appears to be exactly the point” Morris Desir said in a statement. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

A bipartisan agreement between the U.S. Congress and the White House was made in April to extend the Census count operations through Oct. 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Non-response follow up interviews pre-pandemic were expected to begin in May and continue to the end of June. Due to health and safety concerns, the in-person operations were rescheduled to start mid-August. 

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said in a statement Monday night that the agency “intends to meet a similar level of household responses as collected in prior censuses, including outreach to hard-to-count communities.”

There are few details on what this expedited plan will include, but Dillingham did announce there will be “awards” for census workers and additional hiring.

Without any in-person efforts yet started in Michigan, 68.7% of Michiganders have filled out their census form, and nationally about 63% of households have responded.

Allison Donahue
Allison Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.