Chief Justice John Roberts settled one political controversy over the Census last year by siding with the Supreme Court’s liberals to block a citizenship question. But surprise, surprise, Democrats are now asking courts to intervene in another Census fight.
The Constitution requires that every person in America be “enumerated” every 10 years in “such Manner as [Congress] shall by Law direct” for the purpose of reapportioning Congressional seats and electoral college votes among the states. Congress has given the Census Bureau broad discretion over survey questions, schedule and statistical techniques.
Congress has also set a hard deadline of Dec. 31 for delivering the apportionment results to the President and March 31, 2021, for transmitting redistricting data to states and localities. These deadlines are intended to give states ample time to redraw Congressional and legislative maps before the 2022 elections.
Americans in early March began receiving mail notices to complete the Census online. Households that didn’t respond were mailed paper surveys in April. Census “enumerators” were then to follow up with non-responding households in person or by phone. The plan was to conclude the Census count by July 31 as in 2010, which would give the bureau five months to complete data “imputation” and processing. Census employees “impute”—i.e., project—data on households that don’t get enumerated based on information from similar households and government records.
But in April the Census Bureau extended its self-imposed timeline for completing the population count to Oct. 31 due to the pandemic and asked Congress for a four-month extension for delivering apportionment results to the President. This would kick reapportionment into what could be a Biden Presidency.
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