Through a series of articles we call The State, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Advocacy and Political Affairs team is providing analysis related to "the state of" various aspects of the 2020 campaign season, including the race for the White House and key elections around the country.
Everything was trucking along just as it should for the constitutionally mandated, decennial event that literally and figuratively counts every American. Then, like every other activity across the country, COVID-19 forced the U.S. census to a screeching halt in March. Now the Census Bureau is waiting for Congress to respond to its request for a three-month extension.
An extension would allow the Census Bureau to complete its job, but it will create a domino effect of missed deadlines in 2021 and 2022. The original timeline had the count being completed by the end of July, with the final figures submitted to the president by Dec. 31, 2020, and shared with states the following April. The requested extension moves the original July deadline toward the end of October. In turn, the president would receive final figures in April 2021 and states would get their numbers States rely on census-provided population data for many things, including reapportioning congressional and state legislative districts. If states begin receiving their population figures at the end of July 2021, it’ll create havoc for off-year election states like Virginia and New Jersey. In addition, 17 states won’t have the data in time to meet statutory requirements to complete their in-state redistricting maps.
Some states, like Texas, have early primaries in 2022 and will have a short timeline between newly established districts, candidate filing deadlines and primary election dates.
The final population numbers will also determine which states gain and which will lose members in the House of Representatives. The map below shows the expected gains and losses. We will cover the topic of state winners and losers in an upcoming “State of” posting soon.
The good news is that for 230 years, America has successfully counted its population every 10 years. It’s done this during world wars and economic depressions. Though the country is still very much dealing with COVID-19, states are beginning to reopen and the Census Bureau is beginning some field operations in select locations.
To date, 70 million households have completed the census, accounting for 48% of the nation’s total. The highest rates of responses came from households in Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska, while Alaska, West Virginia and Montana are lagging behind the rest of the country.
If you haven’t completed your census, you can do so here: https://2020census.gov/
Randy Dwyer is director of grassroots program development with the American Farm Bureau Federation.