Trump administration can end census count early, supreme court rules
The US supreme court will allow the Trump administration to immediately end counting for the 2020 census, despite warnings that doing so would result in inaccurate data with severe consequences for the next decade.
The ruling essentially cuts short counting every living American resident, scheduled to end on 31 October, by two weeks. The court did not offer any explanation for its order, which came after the Trump administration asked the justices to pause a lower court ruling extending the count while the case was appealed. Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor said she would have blocked the request to halt the proceedings.
“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 in her dissent.
Lower courts had ordered the Trump administration to extend counting until 31 October. The decennial survey, used to draw electoral districts and allocate $1.5tn in federal funds, was originally scheduled to end 30 September, but the Trump administration originally sought a one month extension earlier this year, pointing to delays because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In late August, the commerce department, which oversees the Census Bureau, abruptly reversed its position, saying it would try and complete counting by 30 September and deliver the data used to determine how many seats in Congress each state gets by the 31 December statutory deadline. The reversal came even after the Bureau’s own experts warned they could not meet those deadlines.
“It is ludicrous to think we can complete 100% of the nation’s data coverage earlier than 10/31 and any thinking person who would believe we can deliver apportionment by 12/31 has either a mental deficiency or political motivation,” Tim Olson, a top bureau employee, wrote in a July email. The decision to rush the count did not come from inside the bureau, which is staffed by nonpartisan career workers, an inspector general’s report found last month.
The 31 December deadline is set in federal law, but the Trump administration has not explained why it abandoned its earlier effort to get Congress to extend the deadline until next year. There’s speculation the White House wants to ensure that Trump can oversee the allocation of US House seats, even if he loses re-election, and push to exclude undocumented immigrants from that total.
The Census Bureau claims it has already met its goal of counting 99.9% of housing units in this state. But to meet that goal, according to the New York Times, the bureau said it was willing to accept looser, and potentially less accurate, efforts to count a household, such as asking a landlord for information about a household that failed to respond to the census.
人口普查局声称已经达到了统计该州99.9%的住房的目标。但据“纽约时报”(New York Times)报道，为了实现这一目标，该局表示，它愿意接受更宽松、可能更不准确的家庭统计努力，比如要求房东提供未能对人口普查做出回应的家庭的信息。
Even with counting complete, there are concerns that the bureau’s experts have enough time to verify the accuracy of its data before 31 December. In a typical census, experts at the bureau typically use this time to catch and fix errors. There simply may not be enough time for researchers to do that this year.
“The harms caused by rushing this year’s census count are irreparable,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years.”