Leaked documents reported on by NPR and obtained by the House Oversight and Reform Committee suggest that the Census Bureau might be unable to produce numbers for the upcoming congressional apportionment until after incumbent President Trump's transfer of power.
The files suggest that Trump's effort, stipulated by a presidential memo issued earlier this year, to exclude unauthorised immigrants from the overall count, could fail to be fulfilled due to a specific time framework, irrespective of what courts will say on whether the president's memo can be put to into practice.
In the meantime, three lower courts have already blocked the move after deeming it illegal, since the respective federal law calls for the counts used to reallocate votes in Congress and the Electoral College to be based on the "whole number of persons" in each individual state.
Still, as acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall relayed it to the Supreme Court on Monday, the timeline for the census results remains a "fairly fluid" situation, further citing bureau specialists that it "remains possible" to produce some of the data needed to carry out Trump's memo in January.
Judging by the reported contents of the leaked papers the ultimate release dates change from document to document and are edging closer to Trump's projected final days in the Oval Office.
If Biden already takes power by the time, the memo is certainly unlikely to be exercised: the Democrat said on Tuesday that he hopes the Supreme Court "does the right thing" by rejecting the incumbent president's move not to count undocumented migrants .
Overcount and Other Supposed Anomalies
The census bureau has identified more than a dozen irregularities affecting over a million records from the 2020 census, the files suggest.
One of the spotted irregularities involves records of students living in dorms, which were found to possibly result in a "significant overcount" in some college towns, according to one document.
A coding error, the slide deck warns, may easily affect the final population counts and the demographic data generated by the census unless it is corrected.
The document reportedly goes on to dwell on an 11-step process for using "patches" for the errors to be fixed.
"If the sequencing of patch deployment isn't executed properly", the slide deck says that "may result in other data anomalies", NPR cites the document as saying.
Newly uncovered irregularities, it also notes, may require more time to fix, while the Census Bureau assures the anomalies "are being resolved as expeditiously as possible".
The bureau has already missed the 24 November deadline for the release of census data, telling the committee that the files had failed to be approved for release ahead of the deadline because of "concerns about ongoing litigation", according to a letter from the committee's chair, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who is in charge of the bureau.