Last-minute Upending of the Census Bureau’s Pandemic Contingency Plan Imperils the Accuracy of the Count
(WASHINGTON) – The Trump administration’s last-minute rushed census timeline cuts nearly a month from the actual count and cuts four months from the time for processing and reporting the data, a lawsuit filed against Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham in the United States District Court for the Northern California said today.
The lawsuit was filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, civic organizations and local governments to block the Trump Administration’s plan to force the Census Bureau to cut the 2020 Census count short.
. This lawsuit seeks to stop obviously destructive actions that can only result in incomplete data and an undercount, especially in Black and other communities of color.”
The Trump administration’s abrupt change flouts the census bureau’s own plans for dealing with the hardships imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, undermining the quality and accuracy of the census as well as guaranteeing a substantial undercount of communities of color.
The plaintiffs, represented by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Latham & Watkins, LLP are the National Urban League, the National League of Women Voters, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the cities of Los Angeles and San Jose (California), and Harris County (Houston).
The suit asks the court to the keep 2020 Census on the extended contingency schedule proposed by census officials and already approved by the House of Representatives. Under that contingency plan, the bureau would complete the census, including door-knocking, by October 31, 2020, and deliver apportionment numbers to the president by April 30, 2021. Redistricting data would be reported to the states by July 31, 2021.
“We’re suing to block the Trump Administration from unconstitutionally abandoning a plan to obtain an accurate Census in the midst of a devastating pandemic,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. “From political representation to crucial public funding, every L.A. resident has so much riding on a full, fair and complete count. The Administration’s abrupt, inexplicable and unlawful reversal would harm Angelenos for the next decade. It must not stand.”
The Covid-19 pandemic imposed daunting new challenges to the decennial census just as the count was getting underway, including massive displacements of people. It also forced field operations to halt, affecting outreach to hard-to-count populations like Black, Latino, Native American and immigrant households.
“The Trump Administration’s order shortening the time to complete the Census from October 31st to September 30th is yet another of this administration’s rogue and racist decisions intended to deprive Black communities of resources and execute a redistricting scheme that supports and perpetuates white supremacy,” said Nana Gyamfi, executive director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration. “The extension was granted in recognition of COVID and its impact on outreach and capacity to get an accurate count.