Common Cause Urges Congress to Prioritize Additional Census Funding & Further Examine Trump Administration Request for Census Data Delays

Today, Common Cause called on Congress to increase funding for the Census Bureau and the states to tackle the unprecedented challenges of conducting the Census during the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter also urges Congress to ensure Census Bureau funding is being used solely to compile critical data products and to thoroughly evaluate the Trump administration’s request to delay the Census data delivery deadline which will create significant problems for redistricting deadlines in numerous states.

“Even amidst a pandemic, every resident deserves to be counted so that their communities receive the political representation and the federal funds to which they are entitled,” said Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn. “It is vitally important that Congress allocate the funds necessary to ensure an accurate count during this unprecedented public health challenge during a census year. Congressional oversight is also critical to ensure that the Trump administration does not attempt to manipulate the census for partisan political gain as it did previously in its attempt to add a citizenship question.”

The letter emphasizes that the Census Bureau will need additional funds to support the extension of the timeline for operations and to replenish the bureau’s contingency fund which is expected to face shortfalls during the pandemic. States will also require additional funding as they face the same funding shortfalls with the expanded timeline and the challenges presented by the public health crisis. Common Cause state staff are acutely aware of these challenges due to their service on Statewide Complete Count Committees in six states, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Rhode Island, as well as a number of local complete count committees in additional states.

The letter calls on Congress to thoroughly evaluate the delayed Census timeline requested by the Trump administration as it will have a significant impact on state redistricting requirements. New Jersey and Virginia are scheduled to hold primary elections on June 8, 2021, 53 days prior to the July 31 deadline extension requested by the Trump administration. The delayed delivery of population data is likely to impact 17 states with mandates under state law to complete redistricting either before July 31, too soon after July 31 to realistically complete redistricting, or by the end of the state’s first post-census legislative session. Common Cause requests that Congress determine whether the Census Bureau can prioritize the delivery of data to states based on their respective election schedules and redistricting deadlines.

Due to staff and funding shortfalls arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic Common Cause urges Congress to ensure the Census Bureau funds are only used to compile data products critical to their constitutionally mandated mission rather than accommodate President Trump’s Executive order to divert staff and resources to compile block-level citizen voting age population data. The letter asks Congress to determine whether that superfluous data request contributed to the need for the 120-day extension for data delivery requested by the Trump administration.

To read the full letter, click here.

To view the Common Cause summary impact of the proposed Census delay on state redistricting deadlines, click here.