The US Census Bureau is sounding the alarm over fast-tracked deadlines for this fall's count that could jeopardize its accuracy

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The US Census Bureau is sounding the alarm over fast-tracked deadlines for this fall's count that could jeopardize its accuracy
Bill Clark/Contributor/Getty Images
  • A leaked internal document from the US Census Bureau said the new fast-tracked deadline for the US Census could undermine the integrity of the count and lead to "serious errors."
  • The document uploaded by the House Oversight Committee appears to be a scanned slideshow presentation dated August 3, 2020, which NBC News reported was intended "for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross."
  • It highlights changed or eliminated data process steps that could hinder the accuracy of the data.
  • Census data helps determine federal funding and political representation for communities across the US.

The new fast-tracked deadline for the US Census could undermine the integrity of the count and lead to "serious errors," an internal agency document said.

NBC News reported that the document was sent to the House Oversight Committee and is dated August 3, 2020. The letter does not have an author and is marked "Not for Public Distribution."

The document was released on Wednesday by the committee, which said it "appears to be a presentation for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross," CNN reported.

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Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney told congressional leaders in a letter on Wednesday that she got the document from a "sourcen," according to NBC News.

The letter is dated the same day that Ross announced plans to shorten the timeline for counting the census responses.

Last month, the bureau said it will only process paper forms, which 20% of respondents use, that are postmarked by September 30, and arrive at one of the two data processing centers by October 7.

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At the time, Census watchers were also concerned that this new deadline coupled with the challenges at the US Postal Service could delay deliveries and impact the accuracy of census data collected in rural and sparse areas of the country.

The leaked letter said that the modified process would change or eliminate several important steps that help check the accuracy of data before it is made public or used to determine congressional representation.

"A compressed review period creates risk for serious errors not being discovered in the data — thereby significantly decreasing data quality," the document says. "Additionally, serious errors discovered in the data may not be fixed — due to lack of time to research and understand the root cause or to re-run and re-review one or multiple state files."

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According to the document, the bureau will process this Census data in 92 days. NBC News reported that in 2010, the census took 147 days to process data and 185 days for the 2000 Census.

Some field workers may also be at risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the fast-tracked approach because the agency said that in order to reach the September 30 deadline, as some people may be sent to knock on doors regardless of the areas COVID-19 transmission rate, according to CNN.

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