Former U.S. Census Directors Comment on History of Transparency in Producing and Releasing Apportionment Data from a Census

Four former directors of the U.S. Census Bureau today urged following “the constitutionally prescribed release of the 2020 Apportionment consistent with trusted and historical public practices.”

“The apportionment of U.S. political representation has been directed by census data since our nation’s founding, as directed by Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution…”, Vincent Barabba (1973-76 & 1979-81), Kenneth Prewitt (1998-2001), Robert Groves (2009–2012), and John Thompson (2013-2017) noted. A law passed in 1941 requires using the “method of equal proportions” as the “mathematical formula” to translate population totals into allocations of seats in the House of Representatives.

The former census directors attested to the normally transparent nature of the delivery of this data: “Since the 1980 census, the Census Bureau itself has delivered state population results to the nation through an announced, open, public forum. The transparency and openness have assured the nation that the process is free from any political interference or manipulation, and that the Census Bureau has insured the count is of the highest quality possible.”

Since the COVID-19 crisis delayed the 2020 Census count and processing, review and analysis of the data, the normally scheduled release of apportionment data has also been necessarily delayed.

“It is appropriate that the Census Bureau take the time necessary to ensure the count is as complete and accurate as possible and therefore share all quality indicators about the Apportionment count simultaneous with their release,” commented Barabba, Prewitt, Groves and Thompson.

Census Project co-director Howard Fienberg said, “Stakeholders across the country can rely on the Census Project to monitor and share news of any progress on the Apportionment count and any other data products from the 2020 decennial.”

According to Census Project co-director Mary Jo Hoeksema, “The next six months forecast to be very critical to Census stakeholders as the results of the 2020 count are progressively released. The Census Project is fully engaged to share our collective expertise assessing what is ahead.”

The former directors pointed to a Georgetown University Beeck Center website exploring “the history of the open, public release on Apportionment counts,”