Tlaib, Duggan may challenge Detroit census count

Detroit | Susan J. Demas

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan on Wednesday said that they may challenge the U.S. Census Bureau’s “deficient and haphazard counting effort.” 

They are concerned that the federal agency did not make a good-faith effort to accurately count the number of people in Detroit, which is Michigan’s largest city. Detroit’s self-response rate is 51%, which is the lowest of any American city with more than 500,000 residents. 

Rep. Rashida Tlaib | Robin Bravender

“Any shortcuts, as we all know during the pandemic, will impact our families for a decade and some of that impact is irreparable,” Tlaib said. “We do have a current [President Trump] administration that has been given a number of subpoenas, a number of requests for evidence in regards to the census because other communities are seeing the same exact thing: shortchanges, the process being implemented unfairly.”

The original deadline to fill out the census was Oct. 31. But in late July, the Census Bureau quietly moved the end date for all census-taking operations from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30.

Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office released a report in August arguing that the Trump administration’s effort to move the collection deadline would put the 2020 Census at greater risk of being inaccurate. The census impacts federal funding for a variety of programs at the state and local level, as well as how many congressional seats states have.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan helps to announce the TCF Center | Ken Coleman

In September, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of California’s northern federal district ruled there wasn’t sufficient reasoning to change the Oct. 31 deadline. She blocked the federal government from going forward with the early deadline.

However, the U.S. Census Bureau defied the ruling and stated that Oct. 5 would be the new deadline to conclude 2020 census self-response and field data collection operations.

Tlaib called for more congressional oversight and is gathering evidence to potentially call for an additional count. Concern about Detroit census undercount isn’t new. Former Mayor Coleman A. Young filed lawsuits over the 1980 and 1990 census count efforts.

Duggan said the bureau’s effort has been inadequate from the beginning.

“The Census Bureau cut their budget, scaled it back and there was no Detroit office or Detroit focus, they ran it out of Chicago,” Duggan said. “That told us right off the bat what the commitment of the federal government was to make sure the city was counted accurately.”

Thursday is the last day to fill out the census following court battle 

Detroit has had a lower response rate, which could cost Michigan more than $450 million in federal funds per year, said Kerry Ebersole Singh, Michigan 2020 Census executive director. 

Overall, Michigan’s self response rate is 71.3%, according to U.S. Census figures. Only Illinois, Minnesota, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Washington and Iowa have a higher rate. Michigan is wrapping up critical census response collection efforts amid confusion over the national deadline. 

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.