Federal court denies Trump admin to end Census early

by Jay Domingo

| Photo Census Bureau

NEW YORK – Data collection for the 2020 Census will continue until October 31, a federal judge has ruled.

In addition, Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California ordered the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau Steven Dillingham, and the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • “To inform all Census Bureau employees notifying them of the Court’s Injunction Order, stating that the October 5, 2020 “target date” is not operative, and stating that data collection operations will continue through October 31, 2020.
  • “To file by Monday, October 5, 2020 at 2 p.m. Pacific Time, a declaration under penalty of perjury that unequivocally confirms Defendants’ ongoing compliance with the Injunction Order and details the steps Defendants have taken to prevent future violations of the Injunction Order”
Lucy Koh | Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM.

The rule previously in force was the COVID-19 Plan specifying a deadline of October 31, 2020 for data collection (self-responses and non-response follow-up (NRFU), and deadline of April 30, 2021 for reporting the tabulation of total population to the President.

The Court found that despite the Injunction Order, “Defendants continued to implement the Replan’s September 30, 2020 for data collection. For instance, as recently as Monday, September 28, 2020, four days after the Injunction Order, the Census Bureau’s website, which is updated daily, declared that the “2020 Census will conclude data collection on September 30, 2020.”

The Court said, “The level of misinformation and confusion nationwide is not surprising given that the Census Bureau’s own website continued to tout the September 30, 2020 end of data collection four days after the Injunction Order.” The Court also received several emails from enumerators nationwide that include supervisor texts with erroneous information and “that express concern about the ending of field operations without adequate counts.”

The announcement made on Sept. 28 by Sec. Wilbur Ross, Jr of the Department of Commerce, which said that NRFU will finish on Oct. 5, added confusion.

In effect, Koh’s injunction suspended a Sept. 30 deadline for ending data collection and a Dec. 31 deadline for turning in numbers used to determine how many congressional seats each state gets in a process known as apportionment. Thus, a previous Census Bureau plan that ends field operations by Oct. 31 and reporting of apportionment data at the end of April 2021.

“Defendants’ dissemination of erroneous information; lurching from one hasty, unexplained plan to the next; and unlawful sacrifices of completeness and accuracy of the 2020 Census are upending the status quo, violating the Injunction Order, and undermining the credibility of the Census Bureau and the 2020 Census,” US District Judge Lucy Koh said Thursday, Oct. 2.

Civil rights groups and local governments have sued the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Commerce. They had argued that minorities and others in hard-to-count communities would be missed if the counting ended in September.

In a statement, Kristen Clarke, president, and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said: 

“This ruling makes it explicitly clear that the Trump administration must continue counting the Census through Oct. 31, ensuring our most vulnerable and underrepresented communities will not be disadvantaged by an incomplete count. The administration’s attempt to stop the Census operations early was distinctly aimed at depriving racial minorities and other marginalized communities of the federal resources and political representation they rightfully deserve. With this directive, Judge Koh has shown that partisan schemes to undermine our democracy are intolerable.” 

According to the ruling, the Court ” will subject Defendants to sanctions or contempt proceedings if Defendants violate the Injunction Order again.” The Court sets a case management conference on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 at 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 2, the Census Bureau issued a statement to census takers:

“As a result of court orders, the October 5, 2020 target date is not operative, and data collection operations will continue through October 31, 2020. Employees should continue to work diligently and enumerate as many people as possible. Contact your supervisor with any questions.”

A link to the Court’s orders of Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 were provided to employees. (With Ricky Rillera)

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