Judge Orders More Time for Pandemic-Delayed Census

By: - September 25, 2020 12:00 am

A census 2020 employee distributes flyers encouraging participation in New York City. A federal judge ordered another 30 days of counting, pushing early results into next year. Lev Radin / Sipa Images via The Associated Press

A federal court judge in California on Thursday ordered the U.S. Census Bureau to continue its 2020 count a month past its Sept. 30 deadline.

District Judge Lucy Koh ruled that the bureau must continue counting through October, as it originally planned, to make up for pandemic delays. That change will push the agency’s final report on population into next year and could delay President Donald Trump’s plan to exclude people living here illegally from congressional representation.

The Trump administration had announced in August that the agency would end its count a month early.

The bureau should stick to its original timetable because people expected it and have the right to be counted for political representation, Koh ruled. Otherwise “people who believe they could submit their responses in October would not be counted,” she wrote, and some organizations such as the National Urban League, which led the lawsuit against the Sept. 30 deadline, could lose funding.

The lawsuit was joined by the Navajo Nation as well as cities and counties in California, Illinois, Texas and Washington.

Nationally the bureau has counted 96.6% of homes as of Sept. 24, with some states lagging behind: Alabama (90.5%), Georgia (93.1%), Louisiana (91.8%), Mississippi (92.5%), Montana (91.9%) and South Carolina (92.5%).

Despite their lagging results in the count, attorneys general from Louisiana and Mississippi joined the lawsuit Sept. 23 to protest any extension of time, arguing that the deadline is set by the U.S. Constitution and can’t be legally changed.

“Louisiana and Mississippi would suffer additional harms from that delay as their own redistricting and reapportionment procedures are delayed. A morass of litigation will likely follow,” the attorneys general wrote.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.