Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Census count can end early, Supreme Court rules

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the Trump administration can halt the 2020 census count early, a decision that could result in hard-to-count populations in rural areas and elsewhere receiving less government funding and Congressional representation. 

"The brief unsigned order formally only pauses the population count while the administration and a host of groups advocating a more accurate census battle in a federal appeals court over whether the count could be stopped early," Adam Liptak and Michael Wines report for The New York Times. "As a practical matter, however, it almost certainly ensures an early end because the census — one of the largest government activities, involving hundreds of thousands of workers — cannot be easily restarted and little time remains before its current deadline at the end of this month. In fact, some census workers say, the bureau had already begun shutting down some parts of its count despite a court order to continue it."

The Trump administration sought to wrap up the count at the end of September, but in late September a federal judge ruled that the count had to continue until the end of October. Rural response to the census has consistently lagged, and as early as mid-April, the Census Bureau begged Congress to extend the deadline to the end of October, Zach Montellaro reports for Politico.

But 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).

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