The director of the U.S. Census Bureau, John H. Thompson, announced his resignation this week as the agency faces a funding crisis leading up to the 2020 decennial count, the Washington Post reported. His resignation will be effective June 30, the Commerce Department announced on Tuesday.
That means that the agency tasked with accurately counting the U.S. population so that funds can be adequately doled out to various communities will be left effectively leaderless. Officials are worried that a permanent replacement won't be named any time soon — a reality that could have far-reaching consequences for immigrants and communities of color who are relying on a more accurate electronic system for political representation moving forward.
"Considering how many senior administration political appointments remain vacant, I am worried that the nomination could take a while," Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former staff director at the House census oversight subcommittee, told the Post.
To date, the Trump administration has filled fewer than 5% of 557 key positions in the federal branch of government, according to an ongoing tally kept by the Post and the Partnership for Public Service.
Yet the Census Bureau opening is especially troubling. Before his resignation, Thompson, who has worked at the agency for 27 years and has led it since 2013, told lawmakers that the cost of using new electronic data collection system had increased substantially, by 50%. But in April, Congress only approved $1.47 billion for the Census bureau — 10% less than the Obama administration requested, according to the Post. The 2018 budget may be even worse, with the White House proposing only $1.5 billion for the Census Bureau.
Put simply, the census is how we know what America actually is. It's using census data, for instance that researchers in 2008 were able to estimate that the country is on track to become "majority-minority" by 2042. And the count is already tough to do — communities of color and immigrants are routinely undercounted.
Four years ago, when the government announced that the 2010 Census missed 1.5 million people of color, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, advocated on CBS News for a better way to "ensure that these individuals enjoy the political representation and fiscal resources to which they are entitled."