Ranking Member Shaheen Requests IG Investigation into Shortened Census Schedule

August 11, 2020

SHAHEEN: “I am very worried that the rushed schedule will lead to a significant undercount in hard-to-count communities, which puts the accuracy and quality of the Constitutionally-mandated count at risk.”

(Washington, DC)— U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations subcommittee that’s charged with funding the census, sent a letter to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Commerce requesting an investigation into whether political pressure from the White House and Department of Commerce leadership led to the decision to shorten field data collection and self-response operations by a month. Senator Shaheen’s letter points out that Department of Commerce and Census Bureau leadership had announced a delay in field operations to protect public health during COVID-19. However, following reports that President Trump wanted to rush the census count for political gain, this delay was cut short by a month with no official explanation.   

Senator Shaheen’s letter reads in part, “I am very worried that the rushed schedule will lead to a significant undercount in hard-to-count communities, which puts the accuracy and quality of the Constitutionally-mandated count at risk.  Further, I believe that this deviation in schedule is driven not by expert opinions of career Census Bureau employees but by external pressure from the White House and the Department of Commerce for perceived political gain.”

Shaheen’s letter continues, “I fear that compressing these critical operations will force the Census Bureau to reduce the number of attempts to enumerate households and significantly increase the use of administrative records, proxy interviews and whole household imputations.  The greater use of enumeration methods that are known to produce less reliable data could lead to a substantial undercount, especially in historically hard-to-count communities.”

A signed copy of the letter can be read here.