OurView (Idaho Mountain Express) : The people in the United States are counted every ten years. A pandemic should not be an excuse to warp the 2020 process.
The constitutionally required decennial census provides the basis to apportion representation in Congress, federal funding to states and anything else that has to be divided proportionally. By current federal law, the population total must be delivered to the president by December 31 with detailed reports to the states by March 31, 2021.
U.S. Census Bureau officials have told Congress it cannot meet those deadlines given complications of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. It has asked repeatedly for a four-month extension, pointing out in July that four of every 10 households still had not been counted.
The census hasn’t always been either fair or completely accurate. From 1790 until nearly 1870, slaves, almost always without names, were counted as three-fifths of a white person. The black undercount continued even after the artificial “slave” discount ended.
The results of the census have not always been used as anticipated by the U.S. Constitution. Rural states blocked any re-apportionment of Congress after the 1920 Census revealed a significant population shift that would have increased urban political power. It took an act of Congress to re-establish the reapportionment process in 1930.
Census workers have risen to the task every time even though it was easier to count the four million people in the United States in 1790 than the 331 million in the country now.
Census-takers have never had to work around a global pandemic caused by a previously unknown and highly contagious disease whose consequences range from nothing to death.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross publically admitted the need for an extension as far back as April. Census Bureau officials now warn that, no matter what, the count cannot be completed on the current timetable. Meanwhile, the extension request has been buried in stalled congressional negotiations over other coronavirus-related matters.
Leaving the census partially done could warp reality in the nation for the next decade if households that are harder to reach and count are left out. Congress should immediately pass a clean resolution to extend 2020 Census deadlines to secure a fair and accurate headcount.
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