A coalition of groups, including those representing Blacks and women, filed what is at least the seventh lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s handling of the 2020 census this summer.
The latest lawsuit accuses the administration of improperly rushing to complete the decennial population count by September 30. It was filed by the National Urban League, League of Woman Voters, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and several local government officials.
The administration’s timeline “disregards the Bureau’s own prior conclusions that such rushed processing renders it impossible to fulfill its constitutional obligation to ensure reasonable quality and accuracy of 2020 Census data,” the lawsuit claims. It asks a federal court in California to require the administration give the public more time to respond to the census, but it does not ask the court to require Congress change a December 31 deadline for the submission of a tally used to divide up the seats in Congress.
The Commerce Department referred questions to the Census Bureau, which declined to comment.
After the coronavirus pandemic struck, the Trump administration planned to extend census operations, and asked Congress to extend that December 31 deadline by several months.
“We are past the window of being able get those counts by those dates at this point,” Al Fontenot, the bureau official leading the 2020 census, said last month.
The administration later backed off the request that Congress give it more time, and recently announced it will complete the effort of counting and following up with households that do not reply by September 30.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the census, wrote that concluding counting in September is necessary to meet the December 31 deadline. “So, while the critics have said this plan is being ‘cut-off’ too soon, in reality, it has been strengthened in order to get the complete and accurate count on time,” he argued.
But several former Census Bureau directors disagreed. Those decisions “will result in seriously incomplete enumerations in many areas across our country,” and especially among minority populations, they recently said.
“The end result would be over-rep for the White non-Hispanic population and greater undercounts for all other populations including the traditionally hard-to-count,” the most recently serving former census director, John Thompson, told Congress at a hearing He said it is “critical that these deadlines be extended.”
Also filed this summer are several lawsuits challenging President Donald Trump’s directive that the population tallies used to divide up congressional seats exclude undocumented immigrants.
The Census Bureau said about 64% of households have so far responded to the count and that its field workers have followed up with one in four households that did not reply to the survey.