Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Supreme Court Allows Trump Administration to Wrap Up Census 2020


Census 2020 has repeatedly been in the legal news, with the Supreme Court in 2019 deciding a dispute over a citizenship question on Census 2020 and a court finding just weeks ago that President Trump could not refuse to count undocumented immigrants included in Census 2020 from allocation of congressional seats.

Census 2020 made it to the Supreme Court one more -- and perhaps last -- time.  James Romoser on SCOTUSBlog reports that 

"The Supreme Court [yesterday] allowed the Trump administration to immediately stop counting people for the 2020 census rather than continue counting through the end of the month as a lower court had ordered.

The administration said last week in an emergency request to the justices that it needs to wind down the census count right away in order to have enough time to process the census data and meet a key statutory deadline at the end of the year. A group of local governments and nonprofit groups, led by the National Urban League, said that ending the count early will result in an undercount of immigrants, low-income people and other groups that are difficult to count.

In a one-paragraph, unsigned order, the court granted the emergency request from the Department of Commerce, which conducts the census. The order is framed as a temporary pause of a district judge’s ruling that directed the department to proceed with the count through Oct. 31. But due to the compressed timeline for completing the census, the order is likely to be the definitive say on the matter.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, writing that `the harms associated with an inaccurate census are avoidable and intolerable.' Undercounts of marginalized populations, she said, could result in an unfair distribution of government resources lasting for a decade.

The dispute involved census field operations, which became delayed this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. To cope with the delay, the department initially released a plan to continue field operations through all of October – but it later revised that plan and sought to end field operations on Sept. 30 instead.

In response to the National Urban League’s lawsuit, a district judge in California ordered the department to stick to its earlier plan and keep counting until Oct. 31. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld that directive."


Mike Schneider for the Associated Press observed that the Court's action was "a blow to efforts to make sure minorities and hard-to-enumerate communities are properly counted in the crucial once-a-decade tally. . . . [T]he ruling increased the chances of the Trump administration retaining control of the process that decides how many congressional seats each state gets — and by extension how much voting power each state has."


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