Supreme Court Allows Trump Administration to End Census Early
The Supreme Court on Tuesday approved Trump administration plans to end the 2020 census before a Oct. 31 deadline, suspending lower court orders requiring the decennial count to continue according to a schedule announced in April.
The eight-member court gave no reasons for its unsigned order, which was issued over the dissent of Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The long-planned census field operations, in which enumerators visit households that have failed to complete questionnaires, initially were to end July 31. The coronavirus pandemic upended those plans, forcing officials to suspend door-to-door visits in March. To make up for lost time and other obstacles, the Census Bureau in April adopted a new schedule where field operations would end Oct. 31.
In August, however, officials said they could wrap things up by Sept. 30, in the hope of delivering data to President Trump by Dec. 31.
Groups including the National Urban League, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, along with Harris County, Texas, the city of San Jose, Calif., and other local governments, sued to retain the Oct. 31 deadline, arguing that suspending the count earlier would lead to an undercount of minority groups and urban areas.
包括全美城市联盟(National Urban League)、女性选民联盟(League Of Women Voters)和全国有色人种协进会(NAACP)在内的团体，以及德克萨斯州哈里斯县、加利福尼亚州圣何塞市和其他地方政府，提起诉讼，要求保留10月31日的最后期限，理由是提前暂停计票会导致少数族裔群体和城市地区的人数偏少。
Federal courts in California ordered the count to continue, finding the government hadn’t justified its change in plans and failed to consider the impact on people who had been told the deadline was Oct. 31.
In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor said the government offered only one reason for seeking to end the count early: the need to get the data to Mr. Trump before a Dec. 31 legal deadline.
But, “for months, senior Bureau officials have represented that, whatever the data collection deadline, meeting the Dec. 31 reporting deadline would be impossible,” she wrote. “Only recently have officials begun to claim that the Bureau might yet be able to meet the statutory deadline, and even then, their story keeps changing,” she wrote. “Marginalized populations” and people “in hard to count areas, such as rural and tribal lands… will disproportionately bear the burden of any inaccuracies.”
The Trump administration wants to wrap up counting immediately so that it can begin an intense period of data processing in hopes that it can produce the census’s first results by a legal deadline of Dec. 31. Those results—just the states’ population totals—will set each states’ seats in the House of Representatives and votes in the Electoral College for the next decade.
The House agreed to the extension the Trump administration sought in April, but the Senate hasn’t.
However, the administration reversed course within days of Mr. Trump’s announcement July 21 that he planned to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the state totals. If the president isn’t re-elected, he wouldn’t be able to shape the results if they aren’t delivered by Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.
Unless further court orders change the schedule, the ruling leaves the bureau just 10 weeks to finish work that it had originally scheduled to take six months. It trimmed that estimate to three months in the accelerated schedule that was challenged in court. It must resolve duplicate responses, fill in blanks where it has only partial information on a household and blend in a separate tally of federal workers overseas, such as diplomatic and military personnel.
As of Monday, the bureau said that 99.8% of 147 million housing units had been counted. It said it had reached its goal of at least 99% in every state except Louisiana, where 98.3% had been counted. About two-thirds of households responded to the census by mail, online or phone, and the rest were counted by a quarter-million temporary workers who fanned out beginning in late July.
However, the administration reversed course within days of Mr. Trump’s announcement July 21 that he planned to exclude immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission from the state totals.
A Justice Department representative couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
“Trusted career census officials outlined an extended counting period in order to achieve the full enumeration of all people living in the United States, as called for in the Constitution,” said League of Women Voters Chief Executive Officer Virginia Kase. “The senseless back and forth, the endless court challenges, and the refusal to comply with court orders are all part of this administration’s attempts to undermine an accurate count.”
In a separate case, the administration is asking the Supreme Court to throw out a lower court ruling that blocked the plan to exclude from the reapportionment count immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission.