Supreme Court Helps Trump Administration End Census Count Early

High court’s ruling pauses the population count, which determines congressional breakdown for the next decade.

Nicole Rojas
Oct 14, 2020 - 11:25

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Residents living in the U.S. have until Oct. 15 to complete the 2020 Census after the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration can end the population count early. The high court’s order comes less than two weeks after a federal judge ordered the U.S. Census Bureau to extend the head count through Oct. 31. 

The Supreme Court approved an emergency request from the Justice Department to suspend the lower court’s order extending the deadline. The unsigned order pauses the population count while the government and plaintiffs in a suit for a more accurate population count face each other in a federal appeals court. 

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was the only dissenter, said, “[T]he harms associated with an inaccurate census are avoidable and intolerable,” according to The New York Times

The order, delivered on Oct. 13, will allow President Donald Trump to attempt to manipulate the count by excluding undocumented immigrants from the census, NPR reported. Trump has argued that the census should not include undocumented immigrants although the Constitution calls for the census count to include all residents in the country, regardless of legal status. 

Kristen Clarke, the president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which represents many of the plaintiffs that sued, told The New York Times that the high court’s ruling “will cause irreversible damage to efforts to achieve a fair and accurate census.” 

In a statement, Governor Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community –– which sued the federal government over the rushed census –– said, “With no explanation or rationale, a majority simply decided that our people do not deserve to be counted, thus continuing a long history of leaving Indian peoples at the margins of the U.S. society at large and economy.” 

Order Suspends Earlier Ruling by Federal Judge

The U.S. Census Bureau initially had an Oct. 31 deadline to complete the census count due to delays caused by the pandemic. In July, Trump officials abruptly changed course and set a Sept. 30 deadline to end the count. 

However, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh issued a preliminary injunction order on Sept. 24 that stopped the bureau from “implementing” a Dec. 31 deadline for getting the counts to Trump. The judge sided with local governments and civil rights organizations that argued the Trump administration’s shortened census deadline could affect the population count. 

On Sept. 28, the Census Bureau tweeted Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ announcement that there was a target date of Oct. 5 to end the census self-response and field data collections operation. During a virtual court conference held the following day, Koh said the Oct. 5 deadline was a “violation” of her earlier court order. 

Koh found the Trump administration in violation on Oct. 1. 

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Census Bureau announced that it would continue to accept census responses through Oct. 15. Residents have until 11:59 p.m. Hawaii time to submit responses online at My2020Census.gov and must postmark their paper forms by Oct. 15. The bureau will end collection of phone responses and door knocking on that day as well. 

“The Supreme Court’s ruling to cut our census count short is a blow to all American communities, but especially to Black and Brown people. In the midst of a global pandemic, this decision will almost ensure that necessary resources and vital assistance will not reach many of the people that need them the most,” Jennifer Edwards, senior director of digital engagement and democracy for Color of Change, said in a statement sent to The North Star

Edwards added: “President Trump’s insistence on rushing the 2020 Census is yet another attack on the Black and Brown people that his Administration has continually disregarded. This unprecedented move is not only undemocratic; it puts the Court in lockstep with an Administration scheming to extend its reach far beyond this Presidential term.”

The 2020 Census will be used to determine the number of congressional seats each state receives and will also determine how $1.5 trillion in federal spending will be distributed each year. The results of the census determines the breakdown of the House of Representatives for the next 10 years.  

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.

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