Lankford Presses for Better, Smarter Census After 2020 Delays and $16 Billion Price Tag
Senator James Lankford (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management, today participated in a full-Committee hearing entitled, "The 2020 Census and Current Activities of the US Census Bureau," which focused on the escalating costs every ten years of Census taking and how to collect data more efficiently--especially after the 2020 Census cost taxpayers nearly $16 billion, the online component of the 2020 Census adding uncertainty of privacy and cyber security, as well as the delays for getting Census information to the states in time for their own redistricting deadlines. Lankford's questioned Dr. Ron Jarmin, Acting Director of the Census Bureau.
Lankford actively encouraged Oklahomans to participate in the 2020 Census during his telephone town halls and on social media. In April 2015, Lankford was already working to prepare for and address some of these issues surrounding the 2020 Census during a committee hearing to examine the process and challenges facing the US Census Bureau. In July 2019, Lankford participated in a similar Census-related committee hearing in which he also focused on efforts to improve Census efficiency by augmenting paper questionnaires with safe phone and internet-based options, particularly in rural areas, as well as the status of coupling the 2030 Census and beyond with that year's tax filings to increase efficiency and ease.
On dual data collection by IRS and Census to save taxpayers money
Lankford: What would inhibit the IRS and Census from sharing some of their operations in 2030 to increase the efficiency and--I would tell you, I started talking in about 2013, and the answer from that administration was, "Well, the IRS has a bad reputation. Census has a great reputation, and we don't want to co-mingle it.' That was their public answer, so please don't give me that answer. So what would inhibit us technically to be able to do that. My understanding is IRS and Census already shares some information. Why can't we actually share the harvesting of data from Americans all over the country in that shared return?
Dr. Jarmin: So I'll start with that, So I think it's important to note that we've successfully used administrative records to enumerate, I think about 6 million households in the 2020 Census. Much of that information is sourced by the IRS but other organizations as well. I'm not sure that the dual collection would make the most sense, but we already have a close working relationship with the IRS and get records from them that we can use for this purpose
Lankford: So why wouldn't dual collection work? People are turning in online or in paper form, most of them online at this point with the IRS, to be able to add an additional 10 questions, self-reported?
Dr. Jarmin: I'd want to test that and see how that worked.
Lankford: You have nine and a half years to test it
On Census missing the deadline to get information to states this year
Lankford: Let me ask you about some of the deadlines early on this year. When is the first time that states were officially notified that the deadline would not be achieved.
Dr. Jarmin: So, we have a staff that works with the states all the time, and I think we knew that making the deadlines was going to be difficult. But I think the first official notification was earlier in February.
Lankford: That's the challenge we have, for instance in my state in Oklahoma, we have to do all of our redistricting within 90 days of when our session begins, February the first. So we were already in the process of doing redistricting meetings, doing all of those things, and then suddenly we get a notification, not that we're going to be a little late, that we're going to be five months late