On September 28, 2020, the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced a target date of October 5, 2020, to conclude 2020 Census self-response and field data collection operations. The Commerce Department announced the speedup last month, two weeks after President Trump took a second swing at the problem of counting noncitizens, ordering the department to compile state-by-state estimates of unauthorized immigrants to exclude them from reapportionment calculations.
Last Thursday, September 24th, Judge Lucy H. Koh of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction preventing the administration from winding down the count by Sept. 30, a month before the scheduled completion date of Oct. 31. She also barred officials from delivering completed population data to the White House on Dec. 31 rather than the April 2021 delivery date that had previously been set out. The rationale for the temporary injunction stated that Mr. Ross had ignored the basics of federal policymaking law in trying to cut back the time for a headcount and that Census Bureau personnel warned that the decreased time frame to collect data would lead to a census that could not meet constitutional standards for accuracy. In the end, this shortened process would drastically impact minorities and others in hard-to-count communities.
Attorneys for the federal government said they were appealing the decision. They argued that the headcount needed to end Sept. 30 in order to meet a Dec. 31 deadline for handing in figures used for deciding how many congressional seats each state gets in a process known as apportionment.
The Census Bureau traditionally produces the formulas for reapportionment itself, but this time, two sets of figures — a population count and an estimate of unauthorized immigrants — would be involved under President Trump’s plan.
The November election could also upend the administration’s plan. A Democratic Congress could undo the reapportionment gambit with new census legislation. A Democratic House under Speaker Nancy Pelosi would control the House reapportionment process — and in a worst-case scenario, could simply refuse to allow reapportionment or to send Mr. Trump’s population totals to the states for allocating political power.
People can still respond online, over the phone or by mail — all without having to meet a census taker. If you do not have a computer, contact the U.S. Census Bureau for support. Customer Service Representatives are available every day from 7 am to 2 am Eastern Time on the following phone lines:
- English: (844) 330-2020
- Spanish: (844) 468-2020
- TDD number: (844) 467-2020