Harder Demands Census Bureau Reverse Plan to Cut Short Census Count

August 27, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – In response to plans by the United States Census Bureau to cut short this year’s Census count, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) demanded that the Bureau reverse its decision so a complete count can be achieved. The Census Bureau initially planned to conduct in-person surveys through the end of October – but recently announced plans to end the count a month earlier – at the end of September. Approximately 30 percent of Rep. Harder’s constituents still have not been counted – and across the country nearly four in ten remain uncounted. The failure to get a complete count threatens federal funding and representation – especially in areas like the Central Valley which are more rural and diverse.

“We need every single person in the Valley to be counted – we’ve been left behind on federal funding for too long – and getting an inaccurate count all but guarantees the problem will continue,” said Rep. Harder. “The Census has become really politicized recently but that’s not how it’s supposed to be. We need a complete count.”

“Cutting the Census response period short will force an undercount of the most vulnerable residents of our communities and shortchange area schools, hospitals, community health centers and other essential services,” said Lise Talbott, Chair of the Stanislaus County Complete Count Committee and Waterford City Councilmember. “These same communities are being hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic challenges that have resulted from the pandemic. We must ensure that everyone is counted. We can only do this by keeping the October 31st deadline, and extending the deadline for the US Census to report the data to Congress.”

“By moving the date from October 31st to September 30th limits our ability to ensure everyone has the opportunity to complete the 2020 Census and COVID-19 has not been helpful," said Perfecto Munoz, Executive Director of the West Modesto Community Collaborative. “Therefore we need to have the additional 30 days to ensure that everyone's voice is counted.”

“The US Census Bureau has one job every ten years: count every person. It makes no sense to reduce the time for the agency to complete its one and only job,” said Tony Madrigal, Co-Chair of the Stanislaus County Complete Count Committee and Modesto City Councilmember. “Because of the pandemic, the federal government extended the IRS tax deadline to make sure everyone paid their taxes. Why can’t they do the same to make sure that every person is counted and given a voice in our democracy? The Census deadline must be extended.”

Representative Harder has been vocal in his support for a complete, accurate, and fair Census. Last year, Rep. Harder cheered a Supreme Court ruling which prevented the Trump Administration from adding a citizenship question to the Census. He also warned of a political effort to disrupt the Census response process with deceptive mailings.

The text of the letter is below and an original version is available here.


Dear Secretary Ross and Director Dillingham,

I write today to demand that you reconsider your recommendation to end all Census field data collection operations a month earlier than previously scheduled. With 4 in every 10 households remaining to be counted and amidst a historic public health crisis, the Census Bureau needs to allocate more time for in-person outreach, not less.

A complete and accurate Census is the basis for our democracy. It ensures the equitable distribution of over $675 billion in federal funding each year. as well as giving each American, regardless of background, fair representation in their government. Before this year’s Census even began, hard-to-count communities, such as the rural and minority communities I represent, faced real challenges for accurately reporting data, which requires a substantial field operation.

My district is also experiencing historic wildfires that are damaging homes, property and threatening the safety of my constituents. These factors coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic justify an extension of the Census field count time. Even after eight months of outreach, my district has a response rate of just 68 percent. That is unacceptable. 

Your decision to end the field count an entire month early will lead to the undercounting of many Central Valley families, robbing them of their equal voice in government. By your assistant director’s own projections, your agency will be unable to produce a complete count within the current deadlines. Now is not the time to exacerbate that problem by reducing the time needed to achieve a reliable census count. It is vital that the Census Bureau commits to ensuring an accurate count by providing additional time.     

Given the circumstances of this year, an inaccurate count that will shortchange many Americans is already underway, unless you act. Extending the field count operations for an additional month will give the Census Bureau adequate time to complete a full, fair, and accurate 2020 Census. Thank you for your consideration of this request and I look forward to your response.