US census data is needed now not later

Ohio has seen some success after it sued the U.S. Census Bureau for delaying the release of data needed to redraw political districts and make other governmental decisions. Census Bureau officials now say they will release the data earlier than planned … but in an “outdated format.” They are going to give states the information on DVDs and flash drives, making it more difficult to use in conjunction with other software.

“Given the difficulty in using data in this format, any state using this data would have to accept responsibility for how they process these files, whether correctly or incorrectly,” James Whitehorne, the bureau’s chief of the Census Redistricting and Voting Rights Data Office, said in the court filing in the Ohio lawsuit.

Well, there is correctly, incorrectly and then there’s the federal government’s way. If what census officials are saying is, “Hey, you’re going to have to figure out what this means for yourselves, we’re not going to do it for you,” that seems like a double victory for Ohio.

Because of the format in which it is being delivered, the information will need to be imported into a database. Relationships then will need to be established between files, and users will need to pull a subset of files to look at a specific geography, according to the Associated Press.

Snide comments from the federal government aside, having the information available to them in August will make a big difference in states’ ability to serve taxpayers properly. We are guessing plenty of people in Columbus and beyond are more than capable of properly interpreting the information.


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