In response to Monday’s unanticipated announcement that the 2020 United States Census (Census) data collection deadline will now be shortened by more than a month, to Sept. 30, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas introduced an urgency motion at the Board of Supervisors meeting for immediate action to be taken to elevate the concerns of L.A. County to ensure a fair and accurate Census count.
Specifically, the motion directs the L.A. County Chief Executive Officer to send a five-signature letter to the United State Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census (Bureau) and United States Congressional leadership expressing these concerns. It also directs county counsel to monitor the Bureau’s guidance with data collection timelines and to file or join litigation in opposing the Bureau’s decision.
“One of the most important rights we have is our hard-won right to vote, a right integral to our democracy and directly related to the results of the Census. So we must make sure that we stand up for all to be counted,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “To be undercounted is to be underrepresented and to be underrepresented is to be under-funded—we cannot lose sight of what this means for L.A. County.”
On Monday, Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced that the Census would conclude Non-Response Follow-Up (NRFU) and in-person interviews on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31. This announcement came as a shock to local governments as the October deadline set for data collection was determined in April 2020 by the Bureau. This date was previously extended due to the persistent challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the data collection period is now being shortened for reasons unknown.
On Thursday U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham released a statement that read, in part: “The U.S. Census Bureau continues to evaluate its operational plans to collect and process 2020 Census data. We are announcing updates to our plan that will include enumerator awards and the hiring of more employees to accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts by our statutory deadline of Dec. 31, 2020, as required by law and directed by the Secretary of Commerce. The Census Bureau’s new plan reflects our continued commitment to conduct a complete count, provide accurate apportionment data, and protect the health and safety of the public and our workforce.”
A complete and accurate Census count is crucial to allocating over $675 billion in federal government resources for residents in the United States. L.A. County’s constituency has historically been difficult to measure with many hard-to-reach populations, including people experiencing homelessness.
The count also impacts the adjustment of electoral districts and California could potentially lose two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives if a White House memorandum signed July 21 by President Donald Trump seeking to bar undocumented persons from the apportionment base following this year’s census stands in court. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra — joined by the cities of Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Oakland, as well as the Los Angeles Unified School District — filed a federal lawsuit last month against the Trump administration over these efforts.