Census Deadline Imposed by Supreme Court

Census-2020The story of the 2020 Census continues to evolve.

Following the Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to truncate the count altogether, and to avoid counting noncitizen residents when allocating federal funds and Congressional seats, numerous court cases were filed to challenge administration moves. Just in the final week of September the deadline changed from Sept. 30 to Oct. 31 to Oct. 5, with the administration still disobeying court orders.

And on October 12, 2020, the Supreme Court delivered a death knoll to an accurate census count for 2020, despite the Constitution’s clear language to the contrary.

What We Know

A Federal District Court in California ruled in late September that 2020 Census data collection must continue through Oct. 31, a date that would still allow for the finalization of data by December 31, the self-imposed deadline the Trump administration set for certifying the population count. However, the US Census Bureau insisted it would stop counting via self-response and field operations on Oct. 5, deciding—as the Administration has done on numerous other occasions—to defy the ruling. After the Court of Appeals ruled in support of Judge Koh’s decision to keep the count going, the Administration, again defying clear court orders, appealed to the Supreme Court. Now that court, packed over three decades by Republican appointees, has agreed with the Trump Administration that the Census can be curtailed.

The result of the ruling will likely mean a vast undercount of residents before the government, still in President Trump’s grip, begins to allocate funding under the 2020-21 budget, and likely skewing the redistricting process that allocates Congressional seats according to population. Because the number of seats North Carolina has in the US House of Representatives will depend on the enumerated population count of each state, the state’s representation in national lawmaking will possibly be diminished for the coming decade.

Undercount Will Be Costly

The federal government’s published “Total Response Rates by State” does not represent an actual count. The NC Department of Administration’s Complete Count Commission estimates that up to 30% of North Carolinians may not have responded to the 2020 Census personally—a nonresponse level that represents $5.4 Billion annually for North Carolina.

The Commerce Department’s definition of a complete count may include homes that appeared vacant or did not answer the door when a census worker visited, potentially only once. If nobody responded personally, information may have been gathered from a neighbor, postal worker, administrative records, public records, or other sources. There can be many inaccuracies in this data, despite the address being marked as “complete.”

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