Morristown Green

Can Census-Takers Meet New Trump Deadline? Federal Aid, Representation At Stake For New Jersey

Morristown Green — August 17, 2020

By Tyler Barth

If you haven't submitted your census response yet, don't wait too long.

With an estimated 58 million uncounted Americans, including one million in New Jersey, the Trump Administration last week moved up the deadline from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30, 2020.

The administration says the date was changed so the President can have all the data on his desk by year's end. Democrats claim it will lead to serious under-counting of minorities and, potentially, severe under-representation in Congress and gerrymandering of districts to favor Republicans.

Citing pandemic-related challenges, the Census Bureau asked for an extension of the once-a-decade population count until April 2021. That request has stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate. Census officials now say they can meet next month's deadline.

"The Census Bureau shares the public concern that everybody is counted once and in the right place. The Census Bureau is saying that we can move this up by a month and get it done," Helene Longton, a medial specialist with the Philadelphia Regional Census Center, tols Clermont Sun. "Of course, there may be those who disagree."

"Our job is to go back into our respective communities and shout from the highest mountains how important the census is," Gov. Phil Murphy said last week at a Zoom meeting. He urged residents to fill out the census-online, by phone or by mail-and to tell everyone they know that time's running out.

According to Murphy, New Jersey was woefully under-counted in the last census.

This may have cost Morris County about $90 million in federal aid from the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Some $1 billion will be spread across counties with populations exceeding 500,000. Morris was 8,000 residents short of qualifying.

The Commerce Department attempted to add a citizenship question to the census, but this violated federal law, the Supreme Court ruled last year.

In July, the President signed an executive memo directing the Commerce Department to provide him with data about undocumented individuals, so he can exclude them from census totals used to calculate each state's number of Congress members.

New Jersey is among 20 states challenging the constitutionality of Trump's memo.

Trump also opposes funding of the Postal Service and mail-in voting, moves former President Barack Obama compared to letting roads waste away to prevent people from driving to polling places. According to Trump, mail-in voting is rife with voter fraud, a concern echoed last week by the Morris County Freeholders.

More than 900 regional and national organizations wrote to the Senate on Aug. 6 asking that the census not be rushed. New Jersey organizations included the Community Improvement Association of the Oranges, the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, New Jersey Citizen Action, and the Paterson Alliance.

Concerns about under-counting of minorities are acute in places such as Hudson and Essex Counties, the two most diverse counties in the state. Their response rates are well below New Jersey's average of 65.3 percent, which is slightly above the national average.

Through last month, parts of Morristown also lagged, falling between 41.5 percent and 54.9 percent, according to the Census Bureau.

Morristown Green reached out for comments from Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, the Morristown-based Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center and New Jersey Citizen Action. This story will be updated with any responses .

New Jersey Deputy Chief of Staff for Outreach Deborah E. Cornavaca expressed confidence that New Jersey's census workers, who have all been tested for COVID-19 and will be decked out in protective gear, will meet the new deadline and meet the one million New Jersey households that have not responded.

"Thank you for all you have done already and all you will do in the next 47 days to make the next 10 years better for all in the great State of New Jersey!" she said in a statement.

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