Donald Trump's attempts to ratfuck the census and ensure the GOP gets to gerrymander Congress for another ten years continue apace. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang got the scoop from three sources inside the Census Bureau who say the White House's new plan is to cut off door-knocking by census data collectors a month early, virtually ensuring an undercount of Black and brown Americans.

"It's going to be impossible to complete the count in time," an area manager who oversees local census offices told reporter Hansi Lo Wang. "I'm very fearful we're going to have a massive undercount."

Well, no shit they're going to have an undercount — that's the whole purpose of this exercise. With 40 percent of households still uncounted and immigrants spooked after Trump spent two years trying to get the citizenship question added to the survey, moving the deadline from October 31 to September 1 will result in hundreds of thousands of Americans, many of them in Black and brown areas, going un-surveyed.

The census falls under the aegis of the Commerce Department, and back in April, Secretary Wilbur Ross asked Congress to extend the deadline for reporting the data from the nationwide headcount from December 31, 2020 to April 31, 2021 because of COVID-19.

Trump chimed in at his corona-briefing, saying "The Census Bureau has asked Congress for a 120-day extension. I don't know that you even have to ask them. This is called an act of God. This is called a — a situation that has to be — they have to give in. I think 120 days isn't nearly enough." All the best words!

Then the GOP whispered in Trump's ear that actually they would very much prefer if we didn't count everyone, because acknowledging the reality that most of the population lives in urban areas that vote blue is distinctly unhelpful for Republicans. That's why the only takers on Trump's request to delay the reporting requirement were Democrats. But President Slow Learner has finally grasped the plot and is now working furiously to turn that ship around before he has to hand the captain's chair over to Joe Biden.

Four months ago when Trump thought he was going to win in November, he demanded more time to accommodate the delay in data collection caused by coronavirus. Now he's waging a mad scramble to cook the numbers before a Democratic Commerce Secretary gets sworn in. No more COVID delays — now it's absolutely necessary to complete the count early.

Two weeks ago, Trump issued a royal proclamation ordering that non-citizens can't be counted for the purposes of congressional apportionment, which runs directly counter to all historical and legal precedent. And now he's doing everything possible to stop the headcount. In addition to curtailing door-knocking, Wang notes that the Census Bureau has made one or two changes to its website.

To wit, all references to October 31 as the deadline for data collection have been replaced with generalized language about "working to complete data collection as soon as possible, as it strives to comply with the law and statutory deadlines." Where it used to say residents could mail in completed surveys by October 31, it now says they have to be completed by "The End of Field Data Collection." And when might that be?

"We are currently evaluating our operations to enable the Census Bureau to provide this data in the most expeditious manner and when those plans have been finalized we will make an announcement," a spokesperson told NPR.

So they haven't announced that they're shaving 25 percent off the collection period, and they're waiting for a particularly hectic news cycle or a Friday news dump to make it public. But on the plus side, they managed to stop it leaking out before last Wednesday's hearing on the census before the House Oversight Committee, where four former directors of the Census Bureau testified that Trump's reapportionment order is illegal and called for the reporting deadline to be extended. Stephen Dillingham, the Trump lackey currently serving in the job, testified that he had no knowledge of Trump's order — no one in his shop would politicize the headcount, perish the thought! — and refused to explain why the requested delay due to COVID was no longer needed.

"I'm not aware of all the many reasons except to say that the Census Bureau and others really want us to proceed as rapidly as possible," he said.

UH HUH. For all intents and purposes, Dillingham IS the Census Bureau, so "or others" is doing a whole lot of work there.


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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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