Congressional seat data not ready until February

AP – A Trump administration attorney said on Monday that the numbers used for deciding how many congressional seats each state gets won’t be ready until February, putting in jeopardy an effort by United States (US) President Donald Trump to exclude people in the country illegally from those figures.

The US Census Bureau has found new irregularities in the head count data that determines congressional seat allocations and the distribution of USD1.5 trillion in federal spending each year, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Coghlan said during a court hearing.

Not having the apportionment numbers finished before US President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20 will jeopardise an effort by Trump to exclude people in the country illegally from the apportionment count since the numbers will be delivered under the administration of Biden, who opposes the effort.

The numbers could be pushed back even later in February from the expected February 9 date, Coghlan said.

“It’s a continuously moving target,” he said.

Under federal law, the Census Bureau is required to turn in the numbers used for allocating congressional seats by December 31, but the bureau announced last week that the numbers wouldn’t be ready. At the time, the Census Bureau said it would finish the apportionment numbers in early 2021, as close to the end-of-year deadline as possible.

The new February date was made public during a hearing for a federal lawsuit in San Jose, California.

The California lawsuit was originally brought by a coalition of municipalities and advocacy groups that had sued the Trump administration to stop the census from ending early out of concerns that a shortened head count would cause minority communities to be undercounted. The coalition of municipalities and advocacy groups currently is seeking data and documents to help assess the accuracy of the 2020 census.

Attorneys for the coalition had argued that the head count, as well as the data processing schedule, was shortened to make sure that Trump was still in office so that his apportionment order to exclude people in the country illegally was enforced. An influential GOP adviser had advocated excluding them from the apportionment process in order to favour Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.

Trump’s unprecedented order on apportionment was challenged in more than a half-dozen lawsuits around the US, but the Supreme Court ruled last month that any challenge was premature.

Outside statisticians were worried about the timetable the Census Bureau was given for crunching the numbers after the head count ended in October – about half the time originally planned. During the data processing phase, duplicate responses are eliminated, information gaps are filled in by using records and checks are made on the quality of the data.