With counting operations all but halted in the spring, the administration asked Congress in April to extend the legal deadline for submitting reassignment totals to April 2021, rather than December 31.
But in July, Mr. Trump abruptly reversed course, ordering the December 31 deadline to be met. This forced Census Bureau experts to compress five months of data processing into two and a half months.
The Supreme Court heard arguments this week in two lawsuits claiming Mr. Trump’s plan violated federal law and the Constitution, which states that the census should count all residents, not just citizens, and requires districts in the Congress be distributed “by counting the total number of people in each state,” using census information.
The latest issues, which were not discussed during the Supreme Court’s argument, concern the tabulation of a category – people living in collective neighborhoods – which totaled around 7.5 million inhabitants in 2010, according to the census of that year.
To provide accurate numbers, the census requests advance estimates from the institutions that host them and then matches those estimates with the totals it receives from enumerators in the field. This month’s data-processing operations revealed significant discrepancies between the two digits in the group’s quarters nationwide, differences that can likely only be resolved through closer examination and, in some cases, , returning to the field. (For example, a homeless shelter or prison might have expected to house a larger number of daily residents than it actually had at the time of the census.)
In itself, this is not unusual; the bureau found similar discrepancies in the censuses in 2010 and 2000. In 2013, the bureau described how the counts of residents of collective wards were resolved in a chart that is part of the census planning memorandum series 2010 – reducing the process to a historic footnote.
But in those previous ten-year counts, time had been built into the data processing schedule to address this and other issues. This year, in its rush to produce figures for the White House, the Census Bureau had already cut its data processing schedule by almost half, leaving no room for error.