The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Census figures used to determine House seats delayed again

A census taker knocks on the door of a residence in Winter Park, Fla., on Aug. 11. (John Raoux/AP)

Uncertainty over the timing of congressional apportionment increased Monday, as government lawyers told a federal judge the Census Bureau’s new internal target date for finalizing state population counts is March 6.

The Census Bureau did not immediately respond to a question about the new target date.

Thomas Wolf, senior counsel and Spitzer fellow with the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, confirmed that Justice Department lawyers informed U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh of the shift at a case management hearing. The center is representing the plaintiffs, which include the National Urban League, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the League of Women Voters and jurisdictions in Texas, Washington state and California, in a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its shifting of the deadline for the 2020 Census. Plaintiffs say the change was politically motivated and will harm the accuracy of the count.

At a similar check-in with Koh last week in the case, lawyers defending the commerce secretary, the census director and their agencies said that the latest goal had been Feb. 9, but probably would be later. The bureau has already missed the legal deadline of Dec. 31 to finish processing and tabulating the first round of numbers that determine how many seats in the U.S. House of Representatives each state will have for the next decade.

The Trump administration had been pushing the Census Bureau to deliver state population counts and a tally of undocumented immigrants to the president by late December or early January so he could implement his plan to exclude them from apportionment. But in recent weeks, the bureau has discovered anomalies in the data that have repeatedly pushed the target date for delivery further back.