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The Constitutional Counting Crisis

Budgetary issues have led to a host of other problems for the Census Bureau. Now, the NAACP is seeking to ensure that vulnerable populations aren't overlooked in 2020.
A census advocate holds a sign at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2010.
A census advocate holds a sign at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2010.Jason E. Miczek/AP

Come 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau will face a perfect storm of logistical nightmares: reduced funding, poor planning, and a climate of fear that may exacerbate the challenges of tabulating communities that have historically been hard to count.

Last week, the NAACP sued the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, for information about census preparation in an effort to ensure that America’s most-vulnerable communities will be accurately counted. This Thursday, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross Jr. testified in front of the House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform about the agency’s methods and budget for the 2020 census, attempting to assuage concerns about costs and preparation. But some fear that it may already be too late to salvage one of America’s basic constitutional responsibilities.