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Census deadline extension put on hold by US Supreme Court

Wednesday, Oct 14, 2020

* Washington Post

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Trump administration to end the 2020 Census count now, concluding a contentious legal battle over the once-­in-a-decade household count despite fears of an undercount that would fall hardest on minority groups.

The court put on hold a lower-court order that said the count should continue until the end of the month, because of delays brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The court did not provide a reason, which is common in disposing of the kind of emergency application filed by the administration.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only justice to note dissent.

“The harms caused by rushing this year’s census count are irreparable,” she wrote. “And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years.”

The order is here.

* SCOTUS Blog

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. […]

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.

In its emergency appeal to the Supreme Court last week, the department said that, if forced to keep field operations in place, it would be unable to meet a Dec. 31 statutory deadline by which it must send state-by-state population totals to the president. Those population totals are then used to reapportion congressional seats among the states.

* New York Times

The administration asked the Supreme Court to intervene, saying that only by shutting down field work now could the bureau meet the Dec. 31 deadline, which is set by statute. “The district court’s order constitutes an unprecedented intrusion into the executive’s ability to conduct the census according to Congress’s direction,” Jeffrey B. Wall, the acting solicitor general, told the justices in a brief filed on Wednesday.

“As the law stands,” Mr. Wall wrote, “assessing any trade-off between speed and accuracy is a job for Congress, which set the Dec. 31 deadline and has not extended it, and the agencies, which acted reasonably in complying with that deadline.”

On Saturday, Mr. Wall wrote that as of Oct. 9 the bureau had counted over 99 percent of households in 49 states. But that was widely questioned by census and demographic experts, who cast the number as a public relations estimate that concealed broad gaps in the accuracy of the tally.

* ABC 7

“Each of us is at risk of losing representation in Congress, so we’re pretty certain Illinois is going to lose at least one representative in the House of Representatives,” said Maria Fitzsimmons, 2020 census director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee rights. “That just dilutes the amount of voices in Congress speaking for our needs.”

The representation and funding of neighborhoods across the country may well have been capped with the abrupt end of the census count.

“It will increase poverty among people as a result of this decisions. And it could potentially affect the redistricting process if a full census is undertaken. So it has all kinds of consequences,” said Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-IL 4). “This could have a devastating impact on marginalized, lower income communities across the country.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling Is not exactly the final word. An appeals process could play out in a lower court, but the case won’t be argued before the original October 31 deadline, so the last day to submit your census response is this coming Thursday, October 15.

* Gov. Pritzker

The Supreme Court’s decision to allow President Donald J. Trump to cut the Census short is wrong. It means an undercount in communities that can least afford it, perpetuating generations of disinvestment that make our nation weaker.

Earlier [yesterday], my administration announced an additional $1 million in funding for Census outreach, on top of our historic & nation-leading $29 million investment.

Despite [yesterday’s] decision, know that every person counts in Illinois, and we will always provide quality services to all in need.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

28 Comments »
  1. - NIU Grad - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 10:10 am:

    Not surprising: They were working to undercount as much as possible anyway, even before COVID hit. Extending the deadline wasn’t going to push this administration to take the Census seriously.


  2. - City Guy - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 10:17 am:

    The approach for conducting the Census needs to be updated to include sampling in order to have a more accurate count. Additionally, there should be adjustments made so that prisoners, who can’t vote and don’t participate in local affairs, are not counted in the place where they are imprisoned. This distorts power and benefits to towns that have prison facilities.


  3. - Huh? - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 10:46 am:

    “who can’t vote and don’t participate in local affairs”

    This would exclude more people than you think. What constitutes “participate in local affairs”?


  4. - Lucky Pierre - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 10:47 am:

    Wrong again JB, the census is “not being cut short”. Plaintiffs managed to get nearly two extra weeks of counting people as the case made its way through the courts.

    A 7 to 1 Supreme Court ruling upheld current law that in order to have enough time to process the census data and meet a key statutory deadline at the end of the year, they must stop counting on Thursday. Can you actually spend a million an extra million dollars in one day?


  5. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 10:47 am:

    It seems to me this administration takes an accurate count very seriously. That’s why they’re sabotaging it.


  6. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 10:47 am:

    === Earlier [yesterday], my administration announced an additional $1 million in funding for Census outreach, on top of our historic & nation-leading $29 million investment.===
    And an unlimited supply of coffee.


  7. - Responsa - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 10:50 am:

    Two close friends worked for the 2020 census project and found it to be generally a positive experience. However, as weeks passed their stories of how difficult it was to get some people to respond after repeated attempts, the doors slammed in their faces and the threats made to them, makes me think that continuing would have been a waste of time and effort not to mention further money spent. The census is supposed to capture a moment in time (April 1.) By October any “new” results or input likely become flawed or inaccurate. Perhaps there needs to be a newer better process developed for next time, but this one had run its course.


  8. - 1st Ward - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 10:51 am:

    With emergency applications does the court not publicly state who voted which way or was Sotomayor the only dissent?

    The NYT article references that August 31 was the original established deadline “after a decade of preparation”. Was the August 31 deadline set by the prior/current admin or congress? Historically, is this typically the deadline?

    The rationale for cutting it short by the Trump admin appears to be to control the process instead of it rolling to a new administration if he loses given the December 31 statutory deadline.

    The supreme court shouldn’t dictate when the deadline is or should be extended to. It should look at who has the power to extend or set a deadline (executive or congress) and not play the morality police. JB should throw the Trump admin under the bus not the supreme court.


  9. - hisgirlfriday - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:15 am:

    So does this mean the July 31, 2020 deadline for getting data to states for redistricting (that you blogged about last month) is off the table?


  10. - Just Another Anon - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:16 am:

    1st Ward -

    Congress set the deadline, that’s why Congress needed to act to extend them. It chose not to do so. The Supreme Court did just that. It said, ‘Lower Court, why are you substituting your judgment for that of Congress?’. Its not dictating anything, except that the law says a certain date and therefore that’s the date. As is frequently the case, rather than hold the elected legislature accountable for failing to do its job, folks either want to (1) lay the blame off on the supreme court, or (2) have the court step in and decide policy. One of those things isn’t fair, and the other cuts against the role of the judiciary in our republic. Justice Sotomayor disagreed, and thinks that she should have a say over a legislative policy decision balancing the interests of collecting data vs aggregating and refining data. As a local federal district court judge used to say, if you want to make policy, get elected to something.


  11. - Lynn S. - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:16 am:

    The #1 brother and I both suspect there’s going to be a gangbusters business in special censuses over the next 2-3 years.

    Probably every city and county over 20 or 30k in population will be doing a special census just to show how undercounted they are, and to qualify for more state and federal funds.

    (Those folks that have 30-50% response rates? If they’re a place that voted 50% or more for Trump, they can bear the consequences of their bad choices. Not my fault they’re stupid.)


  12. - KSDinCU - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:17 am:

    A few weeks ago a census worker came by asking questions about the rental property next door, and if I knew who had lived there on April 1. It was very odd.


  13. - Ducky LaMoore - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:23 am:

    I know two census workers in the Peoria area. They claim the most difficult people to get are white and rural. Anecdotal evidence, yes, but it makes me think the count will be off in rural white areas as Much as it is in diverse urban areas.


  14. - Lucky Pierre - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:25 am:

    Words matter

    7 Supreme Court Justices are not controlled by the Trump administration and denying a further extension 6 weeks after the August 31 deadline is not “cutting it short”


  15. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:32 am:

    Where were you on April 1 ?

    The pandemic has exposed managerial incompetence. The original request for an extension on counting was obviously not thought through. Had it been, the extension would have been for less time, ending so there was time to process the results. Once again he extension was in place, they could have tweaked the process so the numbers collected could be processed before the deadline.

    Does Trump want an undercount of some groups? Yes. A competent administration would have stuck to the original schedule. He can’t even cheat competently.


  16. - 1st Ward - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:33 am:

    Thank you Just Another Anon. Very informative.


  17. - Sue - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:46 am:

    The notion that but for this decision Illinois wouldn’t lose a congressional seat is lunacy. Illinois has lost more residents since 2010 then any other state. Just hope we don’t lose two


  18. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:54 am:

    My take is more away from the partisan looking glass or even the realities of the ruling or the simplicity of the tally by the sitting Justices.

    The global pandemic, extended time or not, was always going to hamper the count, and with that hamper the true census of our state, and other states too.

    Partisan or not, the reality of undercounting will hurt Illinois, and every person living here, no matter race, creed, socio-economic background, and Illinois was going to be hurt, like every state, due in large part by a global pandemic.

    States that could best get their counts will benefit, and we will find out how terrible (every states’ counts will be terrible) Illinois will find itself in the end.


  19. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:56 am:

    === Illinois has lost more residents since 2010 then any other state.===

    - Sue -

    I thought you were leaving, or at least not commenting anymore…


  20. - Unconventionalwisdom - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:58 am:

    Interesting that only Sotomayer dissented.


  21. - Lynn S. - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 11:58 am:

    @KSDinCU

    The significant other works part-time for the Census.

    I can tell you why that happened: there was no census form returned for that address. Census workers have knocked on that door at least 3 times, and gotten no response.

    The app the workers use is now telling them to find a proxy, so the census workers are going to the neighbors on each side of the rental property to ask questions about the status of the rental property.

    If it’s vacant on that date, say so.

    If a mom and 3 kids lived there, say so.

    If it was 5 Hispanic guys who worked all the time, say so.

    The census worker wants to complete the case and move in. It benefits you to share any information you can regarding the property, because more tenants = more citizens = more $$$ for your city, county, and state.

    (And if you ever have doubts about the person you’re speaking to, ask to see their Census Bureau ID ( will have their name and picture), and the back of their Census phone (it will be a limited black iPhone with the U.S. Census Bureau logo on the back).

    Recalcitrance benefits no one, and just makes the whole deal more interminable for you and the census worker.


  22. - Cheswick - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 12:15 pm:

    FYI: There were other dissenters. Sotomayer was the only one who filed a written dissent.


  23. - Unconventionalwisdom - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 12:17 pm:

    Backing up what Lynn S says.

    My son is (was) working as a part time job for the Census. Their instructions are to be as thorough as possible and to contact all concerned. Amazing the number of citizens who are indifferent or even resist being counted. My son finds this very frustrating.


  24. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 12:41 pm:

    When taking a “snapshot in time” one usually doesn’t hold the aperture open for 6 months. I agree technology should be used to fill the gaps where 1790s methods fall short in counting those who are afraid, hostile, extra-mobile, or otherwise hard to count.


  25. - Publius - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 12:45 pm:

    All these stories just goes to show how poor of a job we do in civics. Either that or a lot of people just don’t want to be bothered and don’t care if it effects their town/county/state.


  26. - phocion - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 12:52 pm:

    Cheswick - Sotomayor was the only dissenter. Try Google sometime.


  27. - muon - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 12:56 pm:

    To build on what Lynn S. said there are essentially three steps the Census uses to get an accurate count. The first step is self-response; Illinois has a 71.2% self response rate which is up from 70.5% in 2010 and leads among large states. The second step is the field work to count those who did not self-respond; that includes the multiple attempts at the door and requesting help from neighbors if there is no response. Together from steps one and two Illinois has 99.9% of housing units covered.
    The third step is imputation. This happens after the field work ends and usually takes a few months. The Census fills in data for housing units identified as occupied, but for which data is missing or incomplete. Imputation uses various historical and statistical tools to correct the data and put it its final form.


  28. - Downstate Illinois - Wednesday, Oct 14, 20 @ 3:09 pm:

    It’s amazing how clueless the writers of the articles are. The census is done almost everywhere. Every area of Illinois stands at 99.9 percent complete or better for the current Non-Response Followup Phase which ends officially now tomorrow at 11 a.m.


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