BREAKING: SCOTUS Shuts Down 2020 Census...For Now

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Posted: Oct 13, 2020 5:25 PM
BREAKING: SCOTUS Shuts Down 2020 Census...For Now

Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The 2020 census got off to a rocky start when Democrats balked at the notion of the Trump administration adding a citizenship question. This is not unprecedented. This question appeared on past surveys. After a brief back-and-forth, with Trump mulling an executive order, the White House caved and left the question out

The Trump administration requested to end the survey so that the data could be processed in time to meet a deadline concerning what the allocation of congressional seats would be for each state. Of course, there was an uproar over this, with the oppostion noting that minority voters and other "hard-to-count" communities would be ommitted from the data collection process. The Ninth Circuit wasn't convinced by the goverment's argument for ending the census now, but the Supreme Court stepped in this afternoon and the 2020 census is officially on hold (via Associated Press):

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident from continuing through the end of October.

President Donald Trump’s administration had asked the nation’s high court to suspend a district court’s order permitting the 2020 census to continue through the end of the month. The Trump administration argued that the head count needed to end immediately so the U.S. Census Bureau had enough time to crunch the numbers before a congressionally mandated year-end deadline for turning in figures used for deciding how many congressional seats each state gets.

A coalition of local governments and civil rights groups had sued the Trump administration, arguing that minorities and others in hard-to-count communities would be missed if the count ended early. They said the census schedule was cut short to accommodate a July order from Trump that would exclude people in the country illegally from the numbers used to decide how many congressional seats each state gets.

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Last month, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California sided with the plaintiffs and issued an injunction which suspended a Sept. 30 deadline for finishing the 2020 census and a Dec. 31 deadline for submitting numbers used to determine how many congressional seats each state gets — a process known as apportionment. That caused the deadlines to revert back to a previous Census Bureau plan that had field operations ending Oct. 31 and the reporting of apportionment figures at the end of April 2021.

When the Census Bureau, and the Commerce Department, which oversees the statistical agency, picked an Oct. 5 end date, Koh struck that down too, accusing officials of “lurching from one hasty, unexplained plan to the next ... and undermining the credibility of the Census Bureau and the 2020 Census.”

An appellate court panel upheld Koh’s order allowing the census to continue through October but struck down the part that suspended the Dec. 31 deadline for turning in apportionment numbers. The panel of three appellate judges said that just because the year-end deadline is impossible to meet doesn’t mean the court should require the Census Bureau to miss it.

Oh, and there's been lawfare here as well. The AP added that COVID had also gummed up the worked regarding getting this task done by the original July deadline. It was pushed back to the end of October with the apportionment date still slated for December 31. The publication added that the Democratic-controlled House approved of the new apportionment deadline, but the GOP Senate didn't take it up. The apportionment deadline faced another wrinkle when in July, the Trump administration wanted to exclude illegal aliens. That case is also being challenged up to the Supreme Court after facing legal challenges. Yet, most importantly, the December 31 deadline means the Trump administration will control apportionment no matter who wins the 2020 election. 

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively allowed the government to stop the census count immediately, blocking a lower court order that would have required the Trump administration to continue gathering census information in the field until the end of October.

The Census Bureau said it wanted to stop the count so that it could start processing the data in order to meet a Dec. 31 deadline, set in federal law, for reporting the results to the president. But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the government to keep going with its field work until October 31, concluding that a longer time in the field would increase accuracy.

In a brief unsigned order, the Supreme Court stayed the appeals court order.