Rep Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) issues a ‘red light warning’ for the accuracy of the impending U.S. census

Feb 12, 2020
In The News

The U.S. Census that's used to set congressional districts and dole out hundreds of billions of dollars could be headed for a train wreck, lawmakers and a government watchdog warned Wednesday.

The Census, mandated by the Constitution to count everyone in America every 10 years, is already getting started but is falling behind on key steps meant to make sure it works, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

“This new report seems to be sending flashing red lights warning that the Census Bureau simply is not ready for what’s about to happen, this important challenge before us,” said Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) at a hearing where the report was released.

Democrats on the committee have been particularly concerned about the Census since the Trump administration tried to add a question to it about citizenship but was blocked by the Supreme Court.

The question and the publicity around it raised fears that the administration might somehow use the data to target immigrants. Advocates for the decennial count warned that could suppress the count, leading to an over-representation of white Americans.

Maloney raised the specter that the lagging preparations might not be accidental.

"Whether through incompetence or intentional action, this administration’s failures risk causing grave harm to this year’s Census that could jeopardize a complete and accurate count," Maloney said. "And these problems are now urgent."

The GAO has long had the Census on its “high-risk” list. Among the failings, it flagged in the new report where the bureau falling behind on hiring, community engagement, and meeting “key near-term IT system testing schedule milestones.”

The Census, which also is being done online for the first time ever, "continues to face significant cybersecurity challenges," GAO said.

Nevertheless, Census Director Steve Dillingham insisted that the bureau was well aware of all the GAO’s concerns and that it was dealing with them. He insisted that hiring, community outreach, and technology testing were all on track.

“All systems are go,” Dillingham said.