Monday, September 28, 2020

U.S. judge orders census extension, says some populations — including rural — could lose funding and representation

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the 2020 census count must continue through the end of October instead of wrapping up at the end of September, Zach Montellaro reports for Politico. The government is expected to appeal the ruling.

The pandemic has seriously delayed the decennial count in rural areas and other places with hard-to-count populations, heightening the risk of an inaccurate count. "As early as mid-April, just weeks into the country shuttering during the pandemic, the Census Bureau pleaded with Congress to extend deadlines for the count for 120 days," Montellaro reports. "The proposed deadlines would have pushed field collection until the end of October, with apportionment data — the population count used for determining the number and population of each state's congressional districts — being submitted to the president by April 30, 2021 instead of by years' end."

Congress never granted the extensions, and in early August, Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham, a Trump appointee, announced it would withdraw its request for an extension and deliver the results to Trump by the end of 2020 (a decision that came from outside the bureau, according to the Commerce Department's inspector general).

"The reversal infuriated municipalities, community groups and experts, who warned of the prospect of a rushed and deeply flawed count that would affect everything from House apportionment and redistricting to how roughly $1.5 trillion in federal spending would be directed over the next decade," Montellaro reports. The federal court echoed those concerns in its ruling.

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