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Census says data irregularities being fixed quickly, internal documents reveal extent of issues

Census says data irregularities being fixed quickly, internal documents reveal extent of issues
Posted at 1:30 PM, Dec 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-03 16:30:01-05

The U.S. Census Bureau says only a tiny percentage of records are affected by data irregularities that are putting in jeopardy a year-end deadline for turning in numbers used for divvying up congressional seats. However, released internal documents show the "high complexity" problems could push the release to February 2021.

The Census Bureau told a congressional committee Thursday that the anomalies are being resolved as quickly as possible.

House Democrats however say documents they obtained from Census sources, despite Trump administration stonewalling, show hundreds of thousands of records are affected.

Fixing the irregularities could mean missing a Dec. 31 deadline for the Census Bureau to turn reapportionment numbers in to Congress.

The internal Census documents shared by House Democrats show the data issues, which include several "high complexity" problems, could delay the once-a-decade report until February.

Although the documents do not specify the extent of the larger issues, they do say incorrect handling of the issues could skew the count smaller or larger in some areas. They also say the Census Bureau estimates they need an additional 20 days for data processing.

The bureau says the timeline remains in flux.

The Census Bureau issued a statement asserting that "these kinds of anomalies and issues are expected and are similar to the Census Bureau's experience in prior decennial censuses." The Census Bureau Director acknowledged the issues in mid-November, more details and the delayed timeline are coming out now.

The timeline is getting attention because it may or may not be after President Donald Trump leaves office on January 20.

Trump has expressed interest in excluding unauthorized immigrants from the Census count. There have been challenges in court and questions about whether this could legally be done, and also whether it physically can be done by coming up with a reliable number to exclude.

Three lower courts have blocked the directive from Trump saying it violates federal law that says the census should could the "whole number of persons" in each state. The Supreme Court just this week heard arguments in the case. They have not issued their ruling yet.