The Associated Press has obtained text messages that a U.S. Census Bureau supervisor in Alabama sent to workers that told them how to fake counts of households by entering misleading data.
According to the AP's report, texts from the supervisor in October laid out how census takers should fake data to mark a household as only having one resident, even if census takers were unsure of how many people lived in the home.
The supervisor's text instructed census takers to mark a household as only being occupied by a single person if they made two failed attempts to interview the residents and two failed attempts to reach landlords or neighbors.
"You are to clear the case indicating occupied by 1," said the text from the census supervisor in Dothan, Alabama.
A census worker from Florida who traveled to Alabama to help with areas lagging behind on the county provided the texts to the AP on condition of anonymity to protect her privacy.
The Census Bureau says it's investigating and hasn't identified any data irregularities.
The attempts to suppress the population count came as Trump administration officials successfully shortened the Census schedule by two weeks. Critics contend that the count was cut short so the Trump administration could enforce an order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count.
Under-counting a given area in the Census suppresses the allocation of resources to that area and skews congressional districts.
The Associated Press reports the Census Bureau has denied that it attempted to falsify information during the 2020 census, but the AP has reported that similar instructions were sent to other regions.