U.S District Court Judge Lucy Koh in California ruled Saturday the 2020 census will continue through October and rejected the Trump administration’s attempts to cut the response deadline of the census one month early. This will ensure the headcount, which will affect residents for the next 10 years, will be accurate.
Koh said the Trump administration’s attempt to shorten the response timeline for the census would have produced inaccuracies in the headcount and negatively affected communities for the next decade. Additionally, they failed to provide any sensible reason for wanting to rush the census.
The U.S. census, which takes place every 10 years, helps communities get funding for important and necessary services. It’s also used to allocate seats for the U.S. House of Representatives. To put it in straightforward terms, the actions of the Trump administration were a blatant attempt to disenfranchise already underrepresented communities of color.
Although the official announcement to cut the response timeline short came from the U.S. Census Bureau, the internal watchdog for the Commerce Department reported the decision to shorten the response deadline was not made by them. This led some officials to believe the White House was directly responsible for the decision.
This theory would not be out of the ordinary since President Donald Trump has previously tried to suppress the political representation of vulnerable communities. On Sept. 10, the Trump administration’s order to prevent undocumented immigrants from being included in the census was blocked by a federal court. Additionally, the National Urban League sued the Trump administration for rushing the census timeline, accusing them of attempting to alter the U.S. House of Representatives for their own benefit.
Pushing the census response deadline up one month may not seem like a big deal to some Americans, but it is a major problem for already underrepresented communities. For example, Native Americans were the most underrepresented population in the 2010 census and would have been severely affected by this decision. People in tribal communities largely depend on census takers to conduct “nonresponse follow-ups,” but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, nonresponse follow-ups have been delayed, and workers are relying on the census being extended to conduct these important in-person interviews.
The need for in-person follow-ups is primarily because census takers have difficulty reaching some communities through the internet, by mail or by phone. Because census data is used to create congressional districts, the fewer minorities or underrepresented individuals counted in an area equates to less congressional representation for these groups.
The Trump administration’s attempts to cut the response timeline short was outright unconstitutional and illegal. By knowingly trying to not include millions of individuals who are in minority communities from the census, Republicans were blatantly attempting to rig elections in their favor for the next decade. Additionally, Trump admitted he would refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election if he loses, suggesting officials should “get rid of the ballots.”
While some may not take the president’s statements seriously, it is important to note this is not the first time Trump has vowed to disrespect the American election system that has been in place for centuries. During his first speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump encouraged his crowd to chant “12 more years,” insinuating he should be allowed to serve longer than the allotted two terms. His remarks do not sit well with me, as the U.S. is edging closer to an authoritarian government than it ever has.
The decision to keep the census extended through October will ensure an accurate headcount of all residents in the U.S. Although the pandemic delayed much of the census operations and prevented residents from responding to the census, one can only hope this extension will do justice to all of our communities. As an Indian-American, I am proud to say another one of the Trump administration’s attempts to sideline communities of color did not succeed.
Rama Sardar (she/her) is a freshman studying media. She aspires to become a film director and a screenwriter.