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Accurate census is critical for planning

Census Bureau officials’ claim that the agency was able to collect information from 99.9 percent of the households in America strains credibility. It would during normal times, not to mention the middle of a deadly epidemic.

If officials in several states, cities and organizations are right, the bureau simply isn’t telling the truth. In fact, some officials within it made up reports on households.

A lawsuit has been filed against the bureau by the National Urban League, the states of Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas, and assorted others with interests in the population count.

According to the suit, census takers were pressured by supervisors to turn in numbers — and some complied by simply guessing how many people lived in households.

Census Bureau officials “cut many corners and made decisions that do not bear a reasonable relationship to the accomplishment of an actual enumeration,” the complaint alleges.

It adds that the bureau’s methods “are less accurate and have a profound effect on immigrants and minorities — the hard-to-count populations.”

Indeed, those classifications of people can be difficult to count accurately — but so can others, including residents of rural areas, regardless of their race or whether they are natives of the United States.

We already know the Census Bureau cut some very big corners. For example, officials cut off the process of collecting information a full month earlier than had been intended originally.

As we have noted previously, an accurate Census count is important in many ways. It has a real dollars-and-cents impact on every American. It affects our representation in Congress — even how presidents are selected.

If Census Bureau officials knowingly took action that tended to make the count less accurate, they may be guilty of crimes and ought to be held accountable.

If a court finds that happened, it may be that the 2020 Census is unreliable enough that it should be discarded and a bureau with new leadership should be told to try again next year.

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