But if problems with the data force a delay of even three weeks, the Census Bureau would be turning in the numbers to a new president. President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
“The Biden administration will have to see what kind of damage the Trump administration left reapportionment and determine whether an accurate head count, including all persons regardless of citizenship, can be used,” said Jeffrey Wice, an adjunct professor at New York Law School who is an expert in census law and redistricting.
A spokesman for the Biden campaign didn’t respond to an email inquiry.
Even if everything is done on time, the House, which will remain under Democratic control next year, might reject the apportionment numbers on the grounds that they aren’t what Congress asked the Republican administration to provide, said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
“If the president turns over something that isn’t plausibly what they asked for, they don’t have to accept it and they don’t have to transmit to the states,” Levitt said.
The Census Bureau’s announcement about anomalies also underscores pandemic-related worries about the quality of the data. The time allotted for correcting errors and filling in gaps in data collection was cut in half by the administration’s decision to stick to the year-end deadline and accommodate Trump’s apportionment order. The Census Bureau also faced difficulties stemming from wildfires in the West and hurricanes along the Gulf Coast.