The federal government has suspended field operations for the 2020 Census until at least June 1, said Herb Krasner, the U.S. Census field supervisor for the Highland Lakes.
“At this point, they are focusing entirely on the self-response approach, which, as you can see from our stats, we are lagging in,” he said. “The best thing we can do in the short term is to communicate the importance of responding online, by mail, or by phone.”
As of April 13, the number of U.S. residents who have responded to the census was at 49 percent. In Texas, that number drops to 44 percent. The Burnet County response rate is even lower at 42 percent. At the city level, Burnet leads with a 50 percent response rate followed by Marble Falls at 44 percent. Bertram and Granite Shoal currently have response rates of 33 percent and 32 percent, respectively.
The U.S. Department of Commerce canceled all field operations until June 1, which is when contract employees will begin going door to door to count households that have not responded. The deadline to complete the count was pushed to October 31 from July 31.
The U.S. Census Bureau is supposed to deliver the finalized numbers to the president by December 31. The commerce department wants to delay that until April 30, 2021, which will literally take an act of Congress.
That delay means states will not receive redistricting data until July 31, rather than March 31. Further delays also might be necessary, according to the commerce department.
One way states use the census data is to determine state and federal representation.
If those new dates are approved, the Texas Legislature will not have time in its next session, which convenes January 2021, to redistrict both the state House and Senate seats as well as U.S. House seats.
The regular legislative session ends May 31, 2021, and the Legislature will not reconvene again until January 2023. If census numbers have not been finalized and distributed by May 31, 2021, the governor could call a special session for redistricting. Otherwise, new districts would not be drawn until 2023, too late for the 2022 elections.