6 Mich. Congress members demand answers on the state’s Census count

Census protesters
Protesters gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court hears oral arguments in the Commerce vs. New York case April 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. The case highlights a question about U.S. citizenship included by the Trump administration in the proposed 2020 U.S. census. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

A number of Michigan’s Democratic members of Congress penned a letter Monday to U.S. Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham asking for details about the accuracy of the 2020 Census count in Michigan. 

U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) wrote the letter after two census takers told AP they were directed to falsify census numbers. 

In Detroit, census workers said they were understaffed, had vacant supervisor positions and lacked support.

The 2020 Census had a rocky year amid a pandemic that made door-to-door operations difficult, hampered by controversy with the Trump administration’s failed attempt to include a citizenship question and an unclear moving target deadline after the U.S. Census Bureau changed it multiple times. 

The Census Bureau ended its data collection on Oct. 15, over two weeks earlier than the original deadline of Oct. 30. 

When’s the census deadline? It’s unclear, but officials say, ‘Fill it out today.’

“An accurate Census is extremely important to the allocation of billions of dollars in federal funding, benchmarking of state and local statistics, apportionment and redistricting of congressional seats, and myriad other applications,” the lawmakers wrote. “Our residents rely on an accurate Census to fund their most basic needs, from school breakfast programs and public housing to unemployment insurance and Medicaid. However, the Census Bureau’s enumeration of Detroit and other Michigan communities has been rushed and under-resourced and threatens to result in an inaccurate census.”

Included in the letter was a list of requested data, including response percentages, the number of workers deployed for counting and the number of workers deployed for non-response follow-up for the state of Michigan, the city of Detroit and any Michigan geography with a final census completion rate below 99% by Nov. 30.

In October, Tlaib and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said that they may challenge the U.S. Census Bureau’s “deficient and haphazard counting effort” because of concerns that the federal agency did not make a good-faith effort to accurately count the number of people in Detroit.

Tlaib, Duggan may challenge Detroit census count

Detroit’s self-response rate is 51%, which is the lowest of any American city with more than 500,000 residents. 

The census determines how much federal funding Michigan receives for public safety, health care, education, roads and infrastructure through 2030. For every person that goes uncounted, the state could lose $1,800 of federal funds each year, according to the Council of Michigan Foundations.