Supreme Court Allows Trump to End Census on Oct. 15

Update, Oct. 15, 12:30 p.m. PT

The Trump administration was granted permission to end counting for the 2020 census early—on Oct. 15—after the Supreme Court approved a request to suspend a lower court order that extended the count’s schedule.

The move “will result in irreversible damage,” said Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, part of the legal team who brought the original lawsuit to extend the census schedule, and will likely lead to an undercounting of undocumented immigrants—a result that would generally benefit Republicans in the drawing of political districts.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the lone dissenter from the Court’s order.

Update, Sept. 25, 8:15 a.m. PT

On Friday, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration from ending the 2020 census a month early—allowing critical door-knocking efforts and other in-person counting efforts to continue through October 31.

The case—brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Brennan Center and Public Counsel—was filed on behalf of a range of organizational and governmental clients including the National Urban League, League of Women Voters, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, NAACP, the Navajo Nation, Gila River Association and numerous cities and counties. The relief secured applies nationwide. 

“Achieving a fair and accurate census is an important part of our collective work to safeguard democracy,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Read a copy of the preliminary injunction here.

Participate in the 2020 census online here and by phone here.


The 2020 census is being cut short, according to an August 3 statement released on Monday by the Bureau’s director.

The Census Bureau has announced that door-knocking and other field activities will be cut short a month earlier than planned—which could cause a fatal undercount of already underrepresented groups, likely minorities and rural populations.

The 2020 Census is In Danger
A 2020 census sign in Dekalb County, Ga.—one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the Southeast. County executives estimate that a census undercount in Dekalb county could result in a loss of millions of dollars in federal funding for vital public services. (Thomas Cizaukas / Flickr)

To many, this announcement comes as a shock—given that the Bureau asked for an extension back in April, anticipating added troubles in gathering field data due to the pandemic. While the House approved it, the Senate has yet to act.

The census extension would have allowed for data collection to happen through October 31, with the deadline for reapportionment data shifting back to April 2021.

The decision to cut the 2020 census short has prompted widespread outcry. Four former census directors have urged the Trump administration to reconsider their decision, warning that the change in time frame will “result in seriously incomplete enumerations in many areas across our country,” and several other Congress members and agencies (many of whom rely on census data), have released similar pleas.

Currently, House Democrats are pushing for the next coronavirus stimulus package to include a provision moving the reapportionment data deadline back to next year, which would allow for a longer field data collection period. But Republicans are not supportive.

While many argue that the current situation was likely designed to produce an undercount of impoverished communities as well as communities with large numbers of ethnic minorities and immigrants (populations far more likely to vote Democrat), the undercount would hurt Trump’s voter base as well—cutting the count short will result in an undercount of hard to reach rural populations, who tend to lean Republican.

To date, nearly 63 percent of households have responded to the census. With the count set to end by September 30 (at which time self-response options will close as well), it’s looking like the census will be unable to follow through on its commitment to a full and accurate count of every household in the U.S.


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A Census “Fraught With Controversy”

The 2020 census was already fraught with controversy.

Trump previously advocated for the inclusion of a citizenship question on the census, which, if included, could have drastically altered census results. Fortunately, this proposal was widely contested and ruled unconstitutional last year by the Supreme Court.

Studies proved that the citizenship question would have actively helped Republicans gain representation in Congress (though it would also have placed them in a bind, as an undercount would hurt Republican representatives in states with large populations of undocumented people, such as Florida, Texas, and California).

The potential for an undercount is catastrophic: The census helps determine congressional representation and distribution of more than $1.5 million in annual public funding—for the next ten years.

And as Ms. previously reported, this representation is critical for underserved communities—census counts help allocate funding to SNAP and school lunch benefits, not to mention Medicaid.

Have you filled out the census yet? Find out how to get yourself counted here.


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About

Oliver Haug is an editorial assistant with Ms. Magazine and a recent graduate of Smith College. Their writing has previously appeared in Bitch Magazine and the New York Times' newsletter "The Edit." You can read more of their work at oliverhaug.contently.com, and follow them on Twitter here.