The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the Trump administration to halt its rush to end the 2020 Census, extending deadline for counting to October 31.

The court’s order preliminary enjoins the Census Bureau and Secretary of Commerce from using a September 30, 2020 deadline for the completion of data collection and a December 31, 2020 deadline for processing and then reporting the census count to the President.

Under the Court’s Order, the census count will continue through October 31, as the Census Bureau had earlier planned, and its data processing will continue under a timeline that allows for a full, fair and accurate overall tabulation and reporting of the total population to the President.

The court had already issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the administration from shutting down its census operations while the court prepared the ruling it issued today.

“In the face of a global pandemic, the last thing we should consider is cutting short the decennial census that has long-lasting repercussions on the well-being, health, and livelihood of so many Americans. The decision to continue the census will ensure proper attention is given to overlooked and unreported areas that need to be counted the most.” - Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP

The COVID-19 pandemic posed new challenges to the decennial census, including massive displacements of people, just as the count was getting underway. It upended all census field operations and undermined outreach to populations that the bureau has long struggled to count, including racial and ethnic minorities, non-English speakers, and undocumented persons.

Bureau officials requested an extension of census data collection, processing, and reporting deadlines to accommodate a COVID-19 plan that President Trump publicly supported, and spent multiple months acting on that plan. But on August 3, Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham abruptly announced that the data-collection would stop on September 30, a full month short of the time census officials had previously said was necessary to complete the count.

The lawsuit argues that the Trump administration’s new, accelerated census timeline cuts a crucial four weeks from the actual count and four months from the time for processing and reporting the data used to apportion the U.S. House of Representatives. The abrupt change disregards the bureau’s own plans for dealing with the hardships imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also undermine the quality and accuracy of the census as well as produce a massive undercount of communities of color.

The lawsuit argues that the administration’s attempts to rush the census to a close pose a grave threat to the vital functions that rely on census data, from reapportioning the House of Representatives and redrawing state and local electoral districts to equitably distributing over $1.5 trillion annually in federal funds that support basic needs like education, food, and health care.

The lawsuit seeks to have the court declare the decision to scuttle the census COVID-19 plan unlawful because it violates the Administrative Procedure Act as well as the Enumeration Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

The suit asks the court to keep the 2020 Census on the schedule proposed by census officials in April in response to COVID-19. Under that plan, the bureau would complete the census, including door-knocking, by October 31, 2020, and deliver apportionment numbers to the president by April 30, 2021. Redistricting data would be reported to the states by July 31, 2021.

For the ruling, please click here.

We have a strong and diverse coalition of plaintiffs who are demanding that the U.S. Census Bureau uphold their original plan to allow the census count to continue through the month of October. The coronavirus pandemic has set all of us back and created many challenges to get people counted, especially for rural areas such as the Navajo Nation. Today’s ruling should be respected to allow the census count to continue without disruption.”

Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are membership and advocacy organizations, counties, cities, federally-recognized Indian tribes, and individuals whose communities will be underrepresented in the final census count if the administration succeeds in ending the 2020 Census data collection and processing prematurely. The plaintiffs are the National Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the League of Women Voters, the Navajo Nation, Gila River Indian Community, Harris County in Texas, Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia of the Harris County Commissioners Court, King County in Washington, the city and county of Los Angeles, the cities of San Jose and Salinas (California) and the City of Chicago, Illinois.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Latham & Watkins, LLP, Public Counsel, Navajo Nation Department of Justice, the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney, the Office of the Salinas City Attorney, Edelson P.C., the Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, and Holland & Knight LLP.

The Crisis magazine is a quarterly journal of politics, culture, civil rights and history that seeks to educate and challenge its readers about issues facing African-Americans and other communities of color.

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