census takers

A half-million census takers head out en masse this week to knock on the doors of households that haven’t yet responded to the 2020 census. 

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident from continuing through the end of October.

President Donald Trump’s administration had asked the nation’s high court to suspend a district court’s order permitting the census count to continue. The Trump administration argued that the head count needed to end immediately so the U.S. Census Bureau had enough time to crunch the numbers before a congressionally mandated year-end deadline for turning in figures used for deciding how many congressional seats each state gets.

A coalition of local governments and civil rights groups had sued the Trump administration, arguing that minorities and others in hard-to-count communities would be missed if the count ended early. They said the census schedule was cut short to accommodate a July order from Trump that would exclude people in the country illegally from the numbers used to decide how many congressional seats each state gets.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

“Moreover, meeting the deadline at the expense of the accuracy of the census is not a cost worth paying, especially when the Government has failed to show why it could not bear the lesser cost of expending more resources to meet the deadline or continuing its prior efforts to seek an extension from Congress,” Sotomayor wrote.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, sided with the plaintiffs and issued an injunction which suspended a Sept. 30 deadline for finishing the 2020 census and a Dec. 31 deadline for submitting numbers used to determine how many congressional seats each state gets – a process known as apportionment. That caused the deadlines to revert back to a previous Census Bureau plan that had field operations ending Oct. 31 and the reporting of apportionment figures at the end of April 2021.

When the Census Bureau, and the Commerce Department, which oversees the statistical agency, picked an Oct. 5 end date, Koh struck that down too, accusing officials of “lurching from one hasty, unexplained plan to the next ... and undermining the credibility of the Census Bureau and the 2020 Census.”

Now control of the apportionment count will remain in the hands of the Trump administration no matter who wins the presidential election next month.

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