Biden Administration Executive Actions: Census

Among the executive orders President Biden signed on his first day in office was an affirmation that Census population counts would reflect the total number of residents in each state—regardless of their immigration or citizenship status. It has been the government’s longstanding practice for Census figures to be based on the “whole number of persons in each state” (as described in the 14th Amendment). However, former President Trump had attempted to change this policy via executive actions to use administrative records to produce citizenship data and to exclude undocumented immigrants from apportionment counts produced by the 2020 Census. President Biden’s executive order formally revokes these actions. As a result, the Census Bureau has announced that it indefinitely suspended its work to produce more detailed citizenship estimates and will not include information on citizenship or immigration status in its redistricting data. As previously reported, Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham resigned immediately before President Biden took office amid reports that he had been pressuring staff to release citizenship estimates in spite of concerns over the data quality.

The Census Bureau also announced that it is not planning to release apportionment data (which is used to allocate states’ seats in the House of Representatives and Electoral College votes) until April 30. The Trump Administration had been pressuring the Census Bureau to release this information by the end of 2020, in spite of the operational delays caused by the pandemic and resulting concerns about irregularities in the data that could be exacerbated by rushed processing. Census stakeholders had been advocating since the conclusion of the enumeration operation that the Bureau be given additional time to perform essential quality control activities. The Census Bureau will also delay the release of redistricting data, which states use to redraw district boundaries based on population, by several months, although an estimate of when they will be published has not yet been made public.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 2), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

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