- The Census Bureau announced that it will end all counting efforts on Sept. 30, a move numerous experts and census workers have said will drastically skew the census data and make it basically unusable.
- Around 4 out of 10 households have not responded to the census, and now the bureau has just under two months to count tens of millions of people.
- Experts have said the decision will specifically hurt communities of color, immigrants, and lower-income households.
- The move comes after President Trump passed an order directing the census bureau to calculate the congressional seats each state gets without including undocumented immigrants in the population count.
- Many argue both actions were done intentionally by the Trump administration to benefit Republicans because excluding historically undercounted groups, and specifically undocumented immigrants, will give them more seats.
Census Bureau Announcement
The Census Bureau released a statement late Monday announcing that it will end all counting efforts on Sept. 30, a full month early.
The move sparked widespread concern from many experts and politicians who argue the decision will undermine the national population count, which is the sole determinant for how congressional seats are allocated and trillions of dollars in federal aid is given to states for infrastructure, schools, health care, and more for the next decade.
Not only is the 2020 census the largest and most complicated count in American history, it also comes during a pandemic. The way the census works is that the bureau first asks people to respond themselves through mail, phone, or online— a process called “self-response.”
After that, the agency goes door-to-door to households that did not respond. Now, the bureau is cutting the in-person counting process short at a time when it has already been delayed by the pandemic.
Because of those delays, earlier this year, the bureau extended door-to-door efforts to the end of October instead of the original date which was set in July. As a result, the in-person interviews started last month in certain parts of the U.S. and are set to be expanded to the rest of the country next week.
But while the counting deadline was pushed, the deadline for turning in the data that says how congressional seats will be reallocated was not. Federal law says that the Census Bureau has to send population totals to the president by Dec. 31 of every census year.
However, because the in-person counting itself was delayed, experts and current top Census Bureau officials have been saying for months now that the December deadline is impossible.
Tim Olson, the census official leading field operations for the count, outlined those concerns as early as May.
“We have passed the point where we could even meet the current legislative requirement of Dec. 31. We can’t do that anymore,” he said during a webcast.
The Census Bureau, for its part, did try to have that date pushed. Around the same time the agency delayed the counting deadline, they also asked Congress to push the December data deadline to April 2021.
The House approved that ask in their $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill passed in May, but the Senate’s proposal, which has not passed yet, does not include the extension.
When the idea was first floated, Trump himself publicly said he supported extending the deadline to April 2021. Now, it seems like that has changed because census workers have said the White House and the Commerce Department have been pushing the bureau to speed up the process.
In its Monday Statement, the Census Bureau specifically said that it was cutting the count short and making these changes to meet the Dec. 31 deadline outlined by the administration.
Now, the bureau will have just under two months to count all those unresponsive households to meet a deadline many say is already unrealistic. That is incredibly significant because the already delayed and now shortened door-to-door outreach is starting at a time with the lowest self-response rate in history.
According to reports, around 4 out of every 10 households in the U.S. have still not been counted. Many experts are worried that tons of people will be undercounted, and that absolutely essential data will be skewed.
“The chances of having a census accurate enough to use is unclear — very, very much unclear,” Kenneth Prewitt, the bureau director from 1998 to 2001 told Congress members during a hearing last week.
Prewitt spoke along with three other former census directors, who warned Congress that the lack of adequate time to follow up in person with households that have not responded and to go to communities that are traditionally hard to contact will result in many people not being counted. As a result, the federal aid for those communities will be lowered and the political representation will be lessened.
That is a serious problem period, but especially because of the pandemic.
“Rushing census operations, as the administration is attempting to do, ensures the bureau won’t count millions of people — especially those hit hardest by the pandemic,” Vanita Gupta, president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “It will leave the country with inaccurate numbers that deprive communities of resources, political power and the federal assistance necessary to recover from the pandemic for the next 10 years.”
These facts are also even more concerning because the communities that are more likely to be counted during the in-person interviews are also those that have been hardest by the pandemic.
Historically, people of color, immigrants, low-income households, people experiencing homelessness, college students, and elderly people in assisted living facilities are less likely to fill out a census form on their own.
Trump’s Immigration Orders
But that’s not even the only issue that the Census Bureau’s announcement poses for some of those communities. In the statement, the agency also said it “continues its work on meeting the requirements” of two orders from President Donald Trump.
The first is an executive order from last July that told administrative agencies to collect data on undocumented immigrants to give counts that states could then use to draw congressional districts did not include those groups. Trump signed the rule after the Supreme Court ruled that the Commerce Department could not put a question on the census asking people if they were U.S. citizens.
The second order is a presidential memorandum from two weeks ago telling the bureau to calculate the number of congressional seats each state gets without including undocumented immigrants in the population count. The memo is already the subject of numerous lawsuits and is widely viewed by legal scholars as unconstitutional.
Some experts have said that even if the order is not upheld, it could still impact undocumented representation because those communities will be worried that their answers will be used against them and will not respond.
“They clearly have an agenda for not counting undocumented immigrants in the apportionment count,” Gupta said. “I think the administration knows their order isn’t going to be constitutional. Maybe through fear of it, they’re trying to get to the same place.”
If that order goes through, it could drastically shift the outcome of the census. Studies have shown that not counting undocumented immigrants could help Republicans.
According to the University of Virginia Center for Politics, excluding undocumented immigrants from the census would mean California would lose two House seats, New Jersey would lose one seat, Texas would gain two seats instead of three.
Meanwhile, Alabama and Ohio would both gain a seat despite the fact that they are currently not expected to gain seats under a conventional count.
Trump Accused of Skewing Data Intentionally
Many have said that Trump’s order to exclude undocumented immigrants explains why the administration wants to speed up the census.
According to legal experts, if the order is to have any chance of succeeding, the census totals for redistricting need to be delivered to Trump while he is still in office.
“An end-of-year delivery of population figures could provide a different avenue for Mr. Trump to remove undocumented immigrants — by not counting them in the first place,” The New York Times explains. “And delaying the totals until next year, as had been planned, would open the possibility that the totals would go to a new president and Congress.”
Due to both the recent order and the decision to cut the count a month short, numerous people have accused Trump of intentionally taking actions to directly benefit Republicans.
“The 2020 Census will also guide the distribution of political power. With an inaccurate count, under Trump’s scheme, congressional districts, apportioned by Congress every 10 years, will become whiter and more Republican, despite population trends that run the exact opposite direction,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Ca.) and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrahms wrote in an op-ed published The Post.
“The electoral college will be further weighted against the will of the people. District maps from the state house to the school board will be inaccurate, silencing entire communities from being seen and heard.”
Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham, however, defended the move in Monday’s statement, and claimed that the bureau is “committed to a complete and accurate 2020 Census.”
“Building on our successful and innovative internet response option, the dedicated women and men of the Census Bureau, including our temporary workforce deploying in communities across the country in upcoming weeks, will work diligently to achieve an accurate count,” he added.
If your household has not filled out the census, you can visit My2020Census.gov to be counted today.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (Politico) (The Washington Post)
Trump Refuses to Denounce White Supremacy During Debate
- When asked in Tuesday’s presidential debate if he would agree to denounce white supremacist groups and tell them to stand down, President Trump said he would, but when asked to explicitly say the words, he addressed only the far-right group the Proud Boys, and told them to “stand back and stand by.”
- Many people criticized Trump for not condemning white supremacist groups, others also slammed him for seeming to issue a call to arms for the Proud Boys.
- Organizations that track online extremism said the group embraced the “stand back and stand by” quote as a slogan, and some members took to social media sites to praise Trump’s remarks.
- Trump also attempted to shift the focus to unrest caused by left-wing groups and falsely claimed that they caused more violence than right-wing groups, a claim that is contrary to the evidence presented by high-level members of his own administration.
Trump Asked to Denounce White Supremacist Groups
President Donald Trump refused to directly denounce white supremacist groups when asked to do so in the contentious first presidential debate Tuesday night, sparking condemnation from critics and cheers from members of certain white nationalist-tied groups.
“Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland?” Fox News Sunday host and debate moderator Chris Wallace asked the president.
“Sure, I’m willing to do that,” Trump responded. “I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing not from the right wing […] I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”
“Well, then do it, sir,” Wallace implored.
“What do you want to call them?” Trump asked. “Give me a name, give me a name, go ahead who do you want me to condemn,”
“White supremacist and right-wing militia, proud boys,” Wallace responded, singling out the all-male white supremacist-tied group that has been known for engaging in and promoting violence.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” the president responded. “But I’ll tell you what somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem this is a left wing.”
That moment and the response from the president has been described as one of the most significant moments of the night because while Trump said “sure” when asked if he would condemn white supremacist groups, when asked actually do so, he refused.
Even in telling the Proud Boys to stand down, he also told them to “stand by,” a refrain that alarmed many people who believed it sounded as though the president was signaling to members of the group to be ready for something.
“When Trump says: ‘Proud Boys – stand back and stand by’ – he is signalling that he considers them a private army waiting for his command to take to the streets if the result is not to his liking. That is very frightening,” writer Katy Brand tweeted.
“I still can’t get over the fact that Trump was told to condemn violent white supremacists, and all he could eek out was to tell the Proud Boys to ‘stand by’— effectively a call to arms,” political commentator Brian Tyler Cohen also wrote on twitter.
Many others also took aim more specifically at the president’s refusal to condemn white supremacists.
“He was given the opportunity multiple times to condemn white supremacy and he gave a wink and a nod to a racist nazi muerderous organization that is now celebrating online, that is now saying we have a go ahead,” attorney and commentator Van Jones told CNN.
However, in a separate interview with CNN, former Senator Rick Santorum seemed to defend Trump for refusing to denounce white supremacist groups.
“He was asking the president to do something he knows the president doesn’t like to do, which is say something bad about people who support him,” he said, though in a later appearance on another CNN program, he said Trump made a huge mistake by not condemning white supremacy.
As far as the official response from Trump’s team, when White House communications director Alyssa Farah was asked to clarify the president’s comments on Fox News, she said she did not think there was anything to clarify.
“He’s told them to stand back,” she said. “This president has surged federal resources when violent crime warrants it in cities. He’s leading.”
Proud Boys Respond
According to SITE Intel Group, which tracks online extremism, the Proud Boys embraced the “stand back and stand by” quote as a slogan. Some also took to social media sites like Parler, which is known for its large pro-Trump user base, to celebrate Trump’s words.
“Trump basically said to go fuck [protesters] up! this makes me so happy,” one prominent ally wrote on the platform, seemingly in regards to Trump’s remarks about antifa.
While Trump’s comments about antifa took up less focus, it is important to note that his attempts to deflect questions about right-wing groups contained multiple falsehoods that have been contradicted by people within his own administration and the intelligence community.
Despite the president’s claims that almost all the violence he sees is from the left, earlier this month, his own FBI director, Christopher Wray, said that “racially motivated violent extremism,” most of which has come from white supremacists, composes the majority of domestic terrorism threats.
Separately, just days after that, Acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Kenneth Cuccinelli said that “when white supremacists act as terrorists, more people per incident are killed.”
Additionally, DHS also pointed to white extremism as a primary threat in a domestic terrorism assessment published last year.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Business Insider)
Trump and Biden Spar Over Voting Security at First Debate
- In the final round of Tuesday’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden addressed concerns over election security and voter fraud.
- As Biden correctly noted, top officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have said that there is no evidence of widespread mail-in voter fraud.
- Trump later claimed that mailmen in West Virginia are selling ballots. According to state officials, this is not true.
- While Biden promised that he would not declare victory on election night, Trump did not make any such promises when asked by moderator Chris Wallace.
Election Security Concerns
During the final leg of Tuesday night’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden sparred over the topic of election security in the face of widespread mail-in voting.
Here are some fact-checked claims made by both candidates.
Biden: No Evidence That Mail-In Voting Leads to Cheating
At the start of the sixth and final round of the debate, Biden said of Trump: “His own Homeland Security director, and as well as the FBI director, says that there is no evidence at all that mail-in ballots are a source of being manipulated and cheating.”
“They said that. The fact is that there are going to be millions of people because of COVID that are going to be voting by mail-in ballots like he does, by the way.”
While Biden does seem to confuse “homeland security director” with the DHS cybersecurity director, the gist of this claim is mostly true.
A few weeks ago, that director, Christopher Krebs, told CBS News that mail-in voting systems are resilient and secure because they create paper trails that can be audited.
Biden also referenced testimony given by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who last week, said that the U.S. has never experienced a large-scale mail-in voter fraud effort. Wray added that any such fraud would be a “major challenge” for foreign countries to pull off.
Trump: Ballots Found in Wastepaper Baskets
Trump opened the round by saying that he is fine with solicited ballots but that his problem lies with states automatically sending ballots to all registered voters. He then went on to assert a number of claims.
“They’re sending millions of ballots all over the country,” Trump said. “There’s fraud. They found them in creeks. They found some, just happened to have the name Trump, just the other day in a wastepaper basket.”
Trump repeated that claim several more times, saying at one point, “They found ballots in a wastepaper basket three days ago, and they all had the name military ballots. There were military. They all had the name Trump on them.”
The president is referring to a situation in Pennsylvania where nine mailed-in military ballots were found “discarded” by a local election office. Seven of those ballots are known to have been cast for Trump, while two remain sealed.
It is fully possible that those nine ballots could have been improperly discarded, and it is also possible that the move was intentional; however, an ongoing investigation has yet to make that determination.
As The Washington Post reports, military absentee ballots also look like absentee ballot requests, so it is possible they were opened accidentally.
It’s also possible that the ballots could have been what’s known as “naked ballots,” meaning each voters’ candidate choices would have been revealed after opening the envelope. If that is the case, those ballots would have had to have been thrown out because of a recent ruling by the state’s Supreme Court.
Still, as of the debate, it is unproven that this incident is fraud, as Trump claimed.
Trump: Mail Carriers Are Selling Ballots
Following that, Trump claimed that mail carriers in West Virginia are selling ballots.
“Did you see what’s going on?” Trump said. “Take a look at West Virginia, mailman selling the ballots. They’re being sold.”
Plain and simple, this is not true.
In fact, the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office has since said that it doesn’t know of any instances in which ballots were sold in the state.
The closest comparison to Trump’s remarks stem from an incident that occurred earlier this year where a mailman pleaded guilty to election fraud after changing several absentee request forms from Democrat to Republican.
As many have noted, this instance of fraud was quickly caught. Additionally, the mailman’s actions never resulted in any altered ballots.
Wallace: Will You Pledge Not to Declare Immediate Victory?
Debate moderator Chris Wallace ended Tuesday’s debate by asking both candidates if they would urge their supporters to stay calm and not engage in civil unrest in the days following the election.
That’s because, as Wallace pointed out, the results of the election likely won’t be known for days or even maybe weeks after Nov. 3rd, due to the high volume of mail-in ballots.
“And will you pledge tonight that you will not declare victory until the election has been independently certified?” Wallace asked.
“I’m urging my supporters to go in to the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen,” Trump responded. “I am urging them to do it.
“If it’s a fair election, I am 100% on board. But if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that. And I’ll tell you why—”
“What does that mean, not go along?” Wallace asked. “Does that mean you’re going to tell your people — to take to the streets?”
“I’ll tell you what it means,” Trump said. “It means you have a fraudulent election. You’re sending out 80 million ballots… These people are not equipped to handle it.”
Biden, however, responded with a much more concrete answer to Wallace’s question.
“Yes,” Biden said. “And here’s the deal. We count the ballots, as you pointed out. Some of these ballots in some states can’t even be opened until election day. And if there’s thousands of ballots, it’s going to take time to do it.”
See what others are saying: (Forbes) (ABC News) (The Washington Post)
Cambridge Analytica Passed Voter Suppression Information Over to the 2016 Trump Campaign, New Report Claims
- A new report claims Donald Trump’s campaign disproportionately targeted Black voters in the 2016 presidential election in an attempt to dissuade them from voting.
- According to Channel 4, Cambridge Analytica compiled that information and passed it to the Trump campaign as part of a “Deterrence” category.
- While this practice is legal, through the use of Facebook ads, it also potentially targeted 3.5 million Black voters in many states that were ultimately decided in tight races.
- Trump’s re-election campaign has denied these reports, but according to Channel 4, the 2016 campaign’s chief scientist explicitly said the “Deterrence” category contained people that the campaign “hope don’t show up to vote.”
Cambridge Analytica Database
A new report claims Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign received and used data that disproportionately targeted Black voters in an attempt to discourage them from voting in the last presidential election.
The report, published by U.K. outlet Channel 4 News, alleges that the Trump campaign received a database on 200 million American voters from the now-defunct firm Cambridge Analytica. That firm attracted international scrutiny after it was found to have harvested millions of Facebook users’ personal data without their consent.
In 2016, the Trump Campaign pumped $5.9 million into Cambridge Analytica.
As The Washington Post puts it, this database “could add detail to allegations about Cambridge Analytica’s role in the campaign, particularly in efforts to harness Facebook’s powerful ad technologies to dissuade Black voters from supporting Hillary Clinton.”
According to Channel 4, which claims to have obtained the database made by Cambridge Analytica, the list of voters covers 16 key battleground states. Among those states, voters were then separated into eight different categories.
For example, likely Democratic voters were listed as either “Core Clinton,” “Disengaged Clinton,” or “Deterrence.” Channel 4 quoted the chief data scientist of Trump’s 2016 campaign as explicitly saying the “Deterrence” category contained people that the campaign “hope don’t show up to vote.”
Notably, more than half the people listed in that category were either Black, Asian, or Latino.
On top of that, while Black voters only make up about 5.4% of the voting population in Wisconsin, the database marked 17% of Black voters in the state for “Deterrence.”
Likewise, in Michigan, Black voters accounted for 15% of the voting population in 2016; however, the database marked 33% of Black voters in the state for “Deterrence.”
Both races were extremely tight. In fact, Trump won Michigan by just 11,000 votes. At the same time, Black voter turnout in the state dropped by more than 12%.
Ties to the Trump Campaign
Channel 4 has not revealed how it obtained this database, but it does claim that Cambridge Analytica worked “hand in glove with a team from the Republican National Committee.”
Following the report, Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump’s reelection campaign, dismissed it as “fake news,” saying that Trump’s record gave him a “relationship of trust with African American voters.”
Paris Dennard, the RNC’s senior communications adviser for Black media affairs, affirmed that the data obtained by Channel 4 “is not our data.”
Matt Braynard, the Trump data director for the 2016 campaign, said his team didn’t use those categorizations. Instead, he said they relied on material from the party and another firm, L2 political.
“Deterrence doesn’t mean suppression and it doesn’t mean deterrence from voting,” Braynard specified. “It just means deterrence from voting for Hillary Clinton.”
Many of the testimonies seem to conflict with one another. While Murtaugh has claimed the story is “fake news,” Braynard has seemingly admitted that this data is at least real. In addition to that, Braynard said the category wasn’t meant to be a full deterrence from voting, but Channel 4’s quote from the Trump data scientist indicates the direct opposite.
According to The Washington Post, Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica’s former director of business development, said Channel 4’s report is consistent with “her understanding of how Cambridge Analytica and Republicans targeted Black voters in 2016.”
Kaiser then provided The Post with an internal company document from 2016 which described a similar classification strategy for Democrats, including a category labelled “Deterrent.”
Was This Legal?
The tactics described in the Channel 4 report are legal.
David Carroll, a professor at the Parsons School of Design in New York, called the database “a diabolically effective campaign tactic,” but added in a statement to The Post, “They’re just using free speech, even if it is misleading.”
Despite the tactic by Cambridge Analytica being legal, Channel 4 criticized Facebook for its role in airing ads potentially aimed at dissuading voters. Of particular note, during the 2016 Election, Facebook also employed “dark posts,” or ads that vanish from feeds after a campaign stops paying for them.
Those ads make it difficult to go back and track how campaigns targeted specific groups, and that has become a major point of contention because the Trump Campaign pumped $44 million in such types of ads in 2016.
Channel 4 was also critical of Facebook because it was seemingly the original source of information used to help create this database; however, Facebook has maintained that its information was improperly obtained and that Cambridge Analytica was in violation of its policies.