Scheduling of the 2000 Decennial Census

GGD-99-32R: Published: Feb 1, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 1, 1999.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO studied the impact of delaying the 2000 Decennial Census and options to ensure its success, focusing on: (1) the basis for the scheduling of Census Day and the timeframe for reporting population counts to the President, Congress, and the states; and (2) the requirements driving states' needs for census data by specific dates.

GAO noted that: (1) the scheduling of the decennial census is determined by constitutional mandate and federal statutory deadlines; (2) the Constitution requires a census every 10 years to determine legislative apportionment; (3) the first decennial census was conducted in 1790, and in keeping with the constitutional prescription, a census has been conducted every 10 years since then; (4) statutory provisions, rather than the Constitution, set forth the specific date on which the census is to take place, as well as the timeframes in which the census data must be presented to the President, Congress, and the states for purposes of legislative apportionment; (5) current provisions mandate April 1 as the decennial census date; (6) in the past, other dates within the decennial year have also been used for Census Day; (7) the scheduling of the census must also accommodate states' needs for census data; (8) according to the sources GAO contacted, states use the data for congressional and state legislative redistricting; (9) state constitutions and statutes require states to complete their redistricting plans by a certain date, while provisions of the Voting Rights Act also may have an impact on when redistricting plans need to be completed for certain states; and (10) failure to complete a redistricting plan on time can, depending on the state, result in costly special legislative sessions, subject the state to litigation, and possibly delay scheduled elections.

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