- - Tuesday, October 6, 2020

This year is one that will shape our country’s future in more ways than one. All year, we have been contending with a once-in-a-generation public health crisis and in just over one month’s time, voters will make key decisions on what direction our country should take in the years ahead. However, that is not all, as what happens with the 2020 Census will have a direct impact on the lives of all Americans.

With new election updates and the latest COVID-19 developments continuously dominating the airwaves, it is easy to overlook just how important it is that the Census is done right. If a state is undercounted, it could be devastating for the people who live there, with little recourse for change until the next Census in 10 years.

Naturally, though, it has been difficult for Census officials to get an accurate count due to delays caused by COVID-19 concerns and, more recently, natural disasters. Despite this, the Census collection deadline has remained the same for much of this year. While there is a court battle unfolding to extend the deadline, its future is still very much up in the air. Because of this, Congress needs to take legislative action to allow the Census more time to collect and finalize results.

If Congress does not act, it will be the voters who lose out, especially those in more rural and red communities that have had greater difficulties collecting responses. That’s because the Census results will dictate how many seats each state will receive in the House of Representatives. If a state is unable to collect accurate information, then there is a high likelihood that their representation in the House will not actually reflect their population, and they may even lose representatives.

This poses an especially large risk for conservative-leaning states, which tend to have more rural populations, and which are currently the states most struggling to collect complete responses. If those numbers hold and the deadline is not delayed, that will mean more coastal liberals dominating the national political discourse and further ostracizing red, rural states. 

Inaccurate Census results will also mean that millions of Americans will not see any return on the taxes that they have been paying. Rather than coming back into their communities to build and fix roads, and improve schools and health care, those federal dollars will be redirected to communities with higher response rates. We deserve for that money to be reinvested in our own communities, but that will not be possible if the Census deadline were to be changed back to its original date by a new court ruling.

Thankfully, consevative members of Congress are taking notice of these risks, with conservative leaders like Sen. Dan Sullivan, Alaska Republican, Sen. David Perdue, Georgia Republican, and Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican, expressing support for a bill in Congress to delay the deadline and ensure the Census has enough time to complete its work.

This is the right move for Americans everywhere, and one that I hope conservatives such as my home state, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republicans, as well as other red state senators, such as Republicans Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, both of Mississippi, will add their support for in the days to come as their states in particular are currently behind in their count and have a lot to lose from an undercount in the Census.

One of our nation’s founding principles was that all Americans would be represented fairly, but whether that principle becomes reality is in large part contingent on the Census presenting a complete and accurate portrayal of each state. The results of this year’s Census will directly affect all of us, and the right thing to do is to recognize that this year has presented us with unique challenges that mean the Census will need more time to be done fully. Taking action now will ensure all Americans are better off for the next decade, and help to prevent any further economic damage from the crises we currently face.

• Jesse Grady is a JD candidate at the University of Maryland Law, MBA candidate at Johns Hopkins, a former regional field director for the Texas GOP and a former staff member of President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

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