(Headline USA) A federal judge has stopped the 2020 census from finishing at month’s end and suspended a year-end deadline for delivering the numbers needed to decide how many seats each state gets in Congress.
The preliminary injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in California late Thursday allows the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident to continue through the end of October.
Koh said the shortened schedule ordered by President Donald Trump’s administration likely would produce inaccurate results that would last a decade.
“Those facts show not only that the Bureau could not meet the statutory deadline, but also that the Bureau had received pressure from the Commerce Department to cease seeking an extension of the deadline,” she wrote.
The judge, an Obama appointee, sided with radical left-wing activists groups and sanctuary cities who claimed that minorities and others in hard-to-count communities would be missed if the counting ends this month.
“As the court recognized, the Census Bureau has itself repeatedly recognized that a full, fair, and accurate count takes time, especially when faced with a historic pandemic,” said Melissa Sherry, the lead plaintiff’s attorney.
“Every day that the 2020 Census count continues, and Census operations appropriately continue, will help ensure the accuracy and completeness of this once-in-a-decade tally.”
The attorneys for the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the statistical agency, argued that much of the counting was complete already and that the injunction was interfering with the ability to finalize the process by the deadline.
Koh said inaccuracies produced from a shortened schedule would affect the distribution of federal funding and political representation over the next 10 years. The census is used to determine how $1.5 trillion in federal spending is distributed each year and how many congressional seats each state gets.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, around the same time the census started for most U.S. residents, the bureau had planned to complete the 2020 census by the end of July.
In April, in response to the pandemic, it extended the deadline to the end of October. Then, in late July or early August, the deadline changed once again to the end of September after the Republican-controlled Senate failed to take up a request from the Census Bureau to extend the Dec. 31 deadline for turning over the numbers used for deciding how many congressional seats each state gets.
Koh’s preliminary injunction suspended that end-of-the-year deadline, giving Census Bureau statisticians time to crunch the numbers for apportionment from the start of November until the end of next April, for the time being.
Previously, the Census Bureau had only half that time for data processing, from the start of October until the end of December.
The San Jose, California-based judge earlier this month issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Census Bureau from winding down field operations until she ruled.
Attorneys for the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce said Friday they would file an appeal and asked the judge to suspend the injunction while that happens.
“Were the Bureau to miss these deadlines, Congress could well decide to disregard the 2020 census results in conducting apportionment, as it previously did for the 1920 census,” the attorneys for the federal government said in court papers.
The bureau was facing a shortfall in census takers after large numbers reported for training but then dropped out.