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Nominations Sought for CNSTAT Committee on Evaluating 2020 Census

The Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) is accepting nominations for its Panel to Evaluate the Quality of the 2020 Census. This panel will prepare a consensus study report that will serve as a thorough operational and procedural review of the 2020 Census, to both assess the trustworthiness of the 2020 Census data products and to provide solid ground for the testing and experimentation that will lead to the 2030 Census.

CNSTAT is seeking nominees with expertise in survey and census methodology, including management of large-scale survey field operations; statistical and data science experience in the federal statistical system and in state, local, tribal, and territorial agencies; geography and population demography, including address list building and maintenance, generation of legal/political/service district boundaries, and assessment of special populations; and systems engineering, operations research and evaluation, and methods for ensuring privacy and confidentiality. Nominations may be submitted by completing the nomination form by May 14, 2021.

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 11), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

First 2020 Census Data Released; 7 Congressional Seats Change Hands

On April 26, the Census Bureau released the first data from the 2020 Census, including each state’s apportionment population counts (used to allocate seats to the U.S. House of Representatives and electoral college votes), resident population accounts, and overseas population counts. The release of the Constitutionally-required information was delayed due to the operational challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the additional time needed to correct duplicate and incomplete responses. Overall, seven Congressional seats will shift as a result of the 2020 Census. California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia will each lose one Congressional seat, while Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Montana, and North Carolina will each gain one seat. Texas will gain two Congressional seats.

More detailed data on the populations of smaller geographic areas that states will use to redraw their individual Congressional districts is expected to be released in August. The next release will also include more detailed demographic information on race, ethnicity, age, and gender. As states await the publication of this information, several lawsuits are progressing through the courts attempting to force the Bureau to release the data earlier and to prevent it from adopting differential privacy techniques to keep individuals’ data anonymous. Stay tuned to all of COSSA’s 2020 Census coverage here.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 27), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Census Bureau Faces Questions on Release of 2020 Data

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) held an oversight hearing on March 23 to review activities related to the 2020 Census and the Census Bureau. The hearing featured the testimony of Ron Jarmin, Acting Director of the Census Bureau; J. Christopher Mihm, Managing Director for Strategic Issues at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Nick Marinos, Director of Information Technology & Cybersecurity at GAO. Panelists answered questions on the outcome of the 2020 Census operation, including its use of new technologies, efforts to reach diverse communities, and the status of the Post-Enumeration Survey. In addition, several Republican members of the Committee questioned Director Jarmin about the Census Bureau’s decision to wait to release apportionment and redistricting data, despite Congressional deadlines, in order to produce more accurate data (see previous coverage). The Senators noted that the Bureau’s current timeline for releasing the information conflicts with some states’ constitutional deadlines to conduct reapportionment, which has led some states to sue the Bureau to release the data sooner. Jarmin maintained that the Bureau was doing everything it can to release accurate data as quickly as possible. A recording of the hearing and the witnesses’ written testimony is available on the HSGAC website.

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Posted in Issue 7 (March 30), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

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)

Supreme Court Ends Census Count Early; Congress Could Still Act to Protect Accuracy

On October 13, the Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing the Department of Commerce to end its 2020 Census field operations early (see COSSA’s previous coverage for the complete back-and-forth on the end date). However, while the enumeration efforts have ended, the Census Bureau now moves to critical data processing and quality-checking work to ensure that the final counts submitted for redistricting and reapportionment purposes are accurate. The timeline for this essential work is significantly compressed compared to both the Bureau’s original 2020 Census operating plan and the Administration’s COVID-19-adjusted plan. Congress can act to move statutory deadlines and instruct the Bureau to take adequate time to complete these activities. However, with Congress off on the campaign trail, we would not expect to see action on this until the lame duck session after the election. You can stay tuned to COSSA’s coverage of the 2020 Census here.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 27), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Fight for Accurate Census Continues Even as Counting Wraps Up

The 2020 Census has been sent to the Supreme Court yet again, this time over the Administration’s plans to end field enumeration and non-response follow-up efforts early and to rush the timeline for producing Constitutionally-mandated redistricting and reapportionment data. As previously reported, a federal judge required counting efforts for the 2020 Census to continue until the end of October. The Administration has appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court to allow it to end enumeration activities as soon as possible in order to shift the operation to producing data by the end-of-year statutory deadline.

Many Census experts—including the Census Bureau itself—have said that it is all but impossible to produce these data accurately within the statutorily-set timeframe and have urged the Bureau to take more time to produce complete counts for redistricting and reapportionment.

Meanwhile, Congress could resolve this uncertainty by passing legislation that extends the deadlines—as had been originally requested by the Trump Administration and proposed in COVID-19 relief and standalone legislation. However, with negotiations on COVID-19 packages stuttering and Congress leaving for the election, progress seems unlikely before the Court has the opportunity to weigh in. We will continue to follow this closely and report on new developments.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 13), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

With Days Left, Census Deadline Still in Flux

A federal judge issued an order that would prohibit the Census Bureau with ending its field enumerations efforts on September 30, as it had announced (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The preliminary injunction, issued on September 24 as part of a lawsuit brought by a group of civil rights organizations, would require the 2020 Census to continue its counting operations into October as it had originally planned. The Department of Commerce filed an appeal to this injunction and separately announced a “target date” of October 5 for ending self-response and field enumeration activities. It is unclear how this new end date is in compliance with the injunction. Meanwhile, Congress has yet to act on adjusting the statutory deadlines for apportionment and redistricting counts. COSSA will continue to provide updates as the situation evolves.

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Posted in Issue 19 (September 29), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

COSSA Endorses Bipartisan Bill to Extend Census Deadline

COSSA joined over 200 organizations in endorsing a new bipartisan bill that would extend the statutory deadlines for the 2020 Census and require the Census Bureau to continue its enumeration operation through October 31. As previously reported, the Department of Commerce announced plans to end counting activities for the 2020 Census a month ahead of its originally planned schedule, leading to concern that the resulting data will be inaccurate. The 2020 Census Deadline Extensions Act, introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) would require the 2020 Census to stick to its originally planned schedule and gives the Bureau additional time to deliver apportionment and redistricting data. Follow COSSA’s coverage of the 2020 Census here.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 15), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Stakeholders Rally to Salvage 2020 Census

With less than a month remaining before the Census Bureau plans to end all of its counting efforts for the 2020 Census, advocates are actively working to force the Bureau to take more time to ensure an accurate count. As previously reported, the Census Bureau announced in August that it would shorten its counting efforts by a full month, moving up its deadline from October 31 to September 30. According to the Bureau, the shortened timeframe is needed to in order to produce statutorily mandated apportionment counts by the end of the year. The House’s most recent coronavirus relief bill would extend that deadline, but the Senate has yet to act to do so. COSSA joined over 900 Census Project organizations in a letter to Senate leaders urging them to extend the statutory deadlines for reporting apportionment data in its next COVID relief package. In addition, Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) led a bipartisan group of 48 senators calling on Congressional leaders to extend the deadline.

The Census Project has released a toolkit for individuals who want to take action in support of a fair and accurate 2020 Census. They encourage advocates to post to social media using the hashtags #SavetheCensus and #DontRushtheCensus. In addition, stakeholders can write to their members of Congress in support of the Census here.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 1), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

Congress Struggling to Reach Agreement on COVID-19 Relief, Potentially Delaying August Recess

Congressional leaders continue to negotiate with the White House on what many suspect could be the final COVID-19 relief bill, and the House, Senate and Trump Administration remain far apart on their preferred approaches. While the House passed a relief bill—the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act—in May, the Senate has only recently introduced its counterpart proposal, the Healthcare, Economic Assistance, Liability, And Schools (HEALS) Act. Though the Senate is scheduled to begin its August recess on Friday August 7, policymakers are reportedly pessimistic about reaching a deal before then. Senate leaders are expected to delay the start of the recess in hopes of reaching a deal the following week. While members of the House have already returned home, Representatives could be called back with 24 hours’ notice to vote on a final package.

The Senate’s coronavirus stimulus package, the HEALS Act, includes supplemental appropriations for federal science agencies, notably $15.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $3.4 billion for the CDC. The House’s HEREOS Act proposed additional funding for NIH ($4.75 billion), CDC ($2.1 billion), and the National Science Foundation ($125 million), among other agencies. Neither bill includes the Research Investments to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act, a bipartisan bill that seeks $26 billion in relief funding to federal science agencies to support non-COVID university-based research that has been impacted by the pandemic.

The Senate HEALS Act does not include language sought by Census stakeholders, and requested by the Administration, to extend the 2020 Census statutorily required deadlines (see related article). The Census Project, of which COSSA is a member, has worked with various partners to craft a sign-on letter urging the Senate to include language that would extend the deadlines by four months. Interested organizations (not individuals) can sign the letter by August 5.

Finally, the Senate COVID package incorporates the Safeguarding American Innovation Act, a bill seeking to address research security concerns, but itself raising concerns within the scientific community about the approach taken (see related article).

Leadership in the House and Senate will continue to work on a COVID-19 compromise over the coming weeks. COVID relief aside, when Congress returns after Labor Day, lawmakers will have fewer than 20 working days to take action on fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year on September 30, after which lawmakers will head home again in advance of the November elections.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 4), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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