The news this week that the U.S. Census Bureau will be delayed in producing initial numbers might just work to its benefit, and ours. The bureau is supposed to get first results to impeached president Donald Trump, who has been on a blatant mission to sabotage the count, by Dec. 31. But NPR reports that will be delayed due to “processing anomalies” until possibly Jan. 26—just days after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
“In a normal census, the release of the first set of calculations would need to be certified by Congress on the first day of the session, on January 10,” New York reports. “But with Biden now expected to get involved, Trump most likely won’t have the opportunity to close out his effort to skew a census his administration has been trying to weight in Republicans’ favor for over two years.” However, there’re still issues that basically leave everything a big maybe.
New York Law School professor and census expert Jeffrey Wice told the Associated Press there’s the possibility of Trump using his remaining power to just put in a new person “who will do whatever Trump wants him to do.” General Services Administration official Emily Murphy has used her office to single-handedly block President-elect Biden’s transition team from millions in funding and other resources in just one example of an unprecedented use of power by appointees to benefit Trump.
In a statement reported by The New York Times, U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham “acknowledged a delay … but did not explicitly rule out delivering reapportionment totals before Mr. Trump’s term ends.”
“During post-collection processing, certain processing anomalies have been discovered,” Dillingham, another Trump appointee, said according to the Times. “These types of processing anomalies have occurred in past censuses. I am directing the Census Bureau to utilize all resources available to resolve this as expeditiously as possible. As it has been all along, our goal remains an accurate and statistically sound census.”
But that hasn’t been the administration’s goal at all, with Trump this past summer issuing a discriminatory order seeking to erase undocumented immigrants from the count in order to affect apportionment of House seats. While a three-judge panel in New York—including two judges appointed by Republican presidents—blocked the order in September, the Supreme Court last month agreed to hear the case at the end of this month.
“The unprecedented proposal could have the effect of shifting both political power and billions of dollars in federal funds away from urban states with large immigrant populations,” The Texas Tribune reported, “and toward rural and more Republican interests.”
”This case is not about particular individuals or groups, it’s about whether all of our communities are represented,” the American Civil Liberties Union said. “We all have a stake in our communities, and we all lose when we’re not counted accurately. We won’t let Trump get away with this last-ditch effort to weaponize the census. We defeated him in the Supreme Court last year, and we are confident that we will do it again this month.”
The Biden transition team has already indicated that it’s seeking changes for a more representative count in 2030, but what about 2020, and especially if Trump does get his numbers rushed just in time? NPR reports that possibilities include creating “a panel of experts, both within and outside of the federal government, to review early indicators of the quality of the 2020 census,” or even the most “drastic option” of redoing the count, former House official Terri Ann Lowenthal said. That would require congressional approval.