Trump is ending the census count early. It’s a feat of profound political cynicism

Trump is ending the census count early. It’s a feat of profound political cynicism

ASupreme Court ruling this week allowed the Trump administration to end the 2020 census two weeks early, risking an undercount of members of the population who are difficult to reach – particularly immigrants, transients, and the poor. From the beginning, the administration has attempted to meddle with what is usually a scrupulously non-partisan process in order to advance its goal of disenfranchising and immiserating parts of the country which do not vote Republican. And following this court ruling, it is on track to get away with it.

Even by Trump’s own standards of naked partisanship and self-dealing, the weaponization of the census has been cynical and alarming. By deliberately attempting to produce an undercount in certain parts of the country, and by trying to seize control of the process whereby the census is used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives and Electoral College, the administration is leaving behind a tainted legacy.

Why does the census even matter? As well as being the basis for distributing political power between and within the states, the data from the census guides the allocation of about $1.5t in federal funding each year. The constitution states that the census has to take place every ten years and be based on an “actual enumeration” of residents, meaning that the Census Bureau is not permitted to use statistical models to make up for an inaccurate count. If the census isn’t accurate, then the country has to live with the consequences until the next one takes place a decade later.

The Trump administration’s interference began with its attempt to insert a citizenship question into the census, which was designed to suppress responses from immigrants. After the Supreme Court found that excuses for inserting the question were “contrived”, Trump claimed the right to unilaterally alter the Census Bureau’s count to exclude undocumented immigrants. The administration is now rushing to end the census early in order to ensure that Trump, and not a successor with more respect for the constitution, is still in the White House to transmit the altered figures.