Bipartisan Bill Would Extend Census Bureau Counting Deadline

( Another bipartisan group of legislators has come together on a big issue.

This time, it’s in the Senate, where the group is proposing a solution to the long-debated 2020 census. The bill would require the Census Bureau to tally residents through October 31 at least, and extend the legal reporting deadlines for results from the census by at least four months.

The bill was introduced Tuesday by Hawaii Democrat Brian Schatz and Alaska Republicans Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski.

Their proposed timeline is the same as the Bureau’s own revised scheduled they proposed back in April to Congress. At that time, Trump administration officials said the coronavirus pandemic had caused unexpected delays in counting and collecting. As a result, it needed more time to meet its constitutional mandate of counting every living person in America.

In a statement, Murkowski said:

“With the added delays and difficulties caused by COVID-19, it’s become increasingly clear that more time is needed to ensure a fair and accurate census count.”

To this point, Alaska has the lowest self-response rate in the nation for the 2020 census.

“The impact of this Census will be felt for the next 10 years, and we simply cannot afford an undercount. Pushing back the deadline is the appropriate response to make sure this Census is accurate and successful,” Sullivan said.

Over in the House, Alaska Republican Don Young introduced a companion bill to the Senate’s proposal. That bill is co-sponsored by Arizona Democrat Ruben Gallego.

September 30 marks the deadline when Census counting will currently end. Congress was hoping to include an extension on this deadline in the next coronavirus stimulus bill, but with those talks at a near standstill at the moment, there may have to be different action to make sure that gets done.

The bills that were part of the stimulus proposals included language that would’ve prohibited the Trump administration from using government records to produce citizenship status data on every living adult in America.

President Donald Trump issued a memo in mid-July calling for unauthorized immigrants to be excluded from the Census’ state population numbers. These counts are used to determine the number of seats in the House of Representatives. That memo was blocked, though.

At that same time, the administration announced it would be speeding up the bureau’s counting efforts, with the deadline of September 30.

There are two ongoing federal lawsuits with the bureau, though, over this decision to stop counting early and process results quicker.

Lucy Koh, a U.S. District judge in Northern California, ordered a temporary pause on the bureau’s in-person counting. It’s possible that later this week, another court order that would last longer could be issued that would force the bureau back to its original extended counting schedule.

The concern, according to Koh, is how the bureau will finish its efforts in only two weeks. During the hearing, she asked attorneys from the Department of Justice:

“With all of these fires, storms, resurgence of COVID, the Census Bureau is not going to make any exception? It’s going to continue to just impose a September 30 cliff even though it will not be able to do nonresponse follow-up, at least even in the areas where this courthouse sits?”