Posted Thu December 31st 2020 11:50 am by Amy Howe
Twelve days after the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to devise a plan to change how census numbers are used to determine Congressional representation, the Census Bureau confirmed that it would not meet an important year-end deadline to increase the population of the state Providing for the state is part of the president. Instead, the office announced on Wednesday that it would deliver the numbers “early 2021”.
This total state population, once determined, is typically used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives. President Donald Trump wants to adjust the total to exclude people living illegally in the US from the redistribution calculation. Opponents sued to block his plan, but judges ruled on December 18 that the lawsuit was premature.
Although the court has left the door open for a future legal challenge, the bureau’s announcement means that the real threat to Trump’s ability to execute his plan is likely to come from the calendar rather than the courts after less than three weeks in tenure .
The constitution requires that a census be conducted every 10 years to determine the population of the United States. This is then used to determine how many seats each state will receive in the House of Representatives (and, more broadly, how many votes each state will have in future elections). According to federal law, the Minister of Commerce must send the President a report by December 31 stating the population of each state. This is the deadline that the Census Bureau announced on Wednesday that it will not meet.
The next key deadline is January 10th, when the President is due to send a report to Congress based on the Secretary of Commerce’s numbers indicating how many people live in each state and how many seats in the House each state should have over the next decade .
In July 2020, Trump issued a memorandum announcing that calculating the number of home seats for each state would not include people living illegally in the United States – a departure from the practice used throughout US history. Instead, Trump instructed Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to provide two sets of population figures for each state: the total population as determined by the 2020 census; and the total population excluding “as far as practicable” unauthorized immigrants.
Trump’s plan to use the second set of numbers as the “basis” for allocating seats in the House of Representatives could result in states with large numbers of unauthorized immigrants losing seats. The memorandum therefore created challenges from state and local governments, as well as a group of nonprofits that work with immigrant communities. A special district court with three judges banned Ross from including information necessary to implement the memorandum in his December 31 report to the president, prompting the Supreme Court to hasten the Trump administration’s appeal.
At the hearing on November 30, incumbent Attorney General Jeffrey Wall told judges that it was still unclear how many unauthorized immigrants the Census Bureau could identify, let alone how their number and geographic concentration would affect the division could. In an unsigned statement less than three weeks later, the Supreme Court referred to this uncertainty in dismissing the case, arguing that it was “riddled with contingencies and speculation that hamper judicial review”. Since there is still no way of knowing which unauthorized immigrants would be expelled under the President’s plan or what impact expulsions could have, the court concluded that the challengers have not yet been able to prove any harm from the President’s plan, and this is so was also the case too early for the courts to act.
The bureau’s announcement on Wednesday raised the prospect that the courts may ultimately no longer have to act at all. In a brief press release, the Census Bureau stated that data collection “is only part of producing a full and accurate census for 2020”. The office must also process the data and “fix any problems that could affect the accuracy of the data”. The office said it plans to “provide a full and accurate census for the apportionment in early 2021, as close as possible to the legal deadline,” but did not say whether it would do so before President-elect Joe Biden took office at noon on January 20.
This article was first published by Howe on the Court.
Amy Howe, Missed Deadline complicates Trump’s census plan, despite the court’s decision that allowed him to move forward.
SCOTUSblog (December 31, 2020, 11:50 am), https://www.scotusblog.com/2020/12/missed-deadline-complicates-trumps-plan-for-census-data-despite-courts-ruling-that – allowed-him-to-move-forward /