The Trump administration has said the 2020 census will end early on 5 October, defying a federal judge’s ruling that the count should continue through the end of October.
The US secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, made the announcement in a tweet posted on the US Census Bureau’s website on Monday.
Ross said the “target date” for ending all counting efforts for the 2020 census is now 5 October, despite a judge ordering the Trump administration to extend counting through 31 October.
The move is the latest in an ongoing battle over the census, which is used to allocate seats in Congress. The census also is used to determine how to distribute $1.5tn in federal spending annually.
Critics say the Trump administration is seeking to exclude undocumented immigrants from the survey to advantage Republicans in upcoming elections. The Trump administration said it will appeal the original decision from the judge.
The announcement came as a virtual hearing was being held in San Jose, California, as a follow-up to the US district judge Lucy Koh’s preliminary injunction, which last week suspended the Census Bureau’s plan to end the head count on 30 September.
Koh asked federal government attorneys during Monday’s hearing to provide documents on how the new decision to end the head count on 5 October was made. When a federal government lawyer suggested that the decision-making was a moving target without any records, the judge asked, “A one sentence tweet? Are you saying that is enough reason to establish decision-making? A one sentence tweet?”
Koh said in her ruling last Thursday that the shortened schedule ordered by Trump’s administration likely would produce inaccurate results that would last a decade. She sided with civil rights groups and local governments that had sued the US Census Bureau and the US Department of Commerce, which oversees the statistical agency, arguing that minorities and others in hard-to-count communities would be missed if the counting ends this month.
Attorneys for the federal government said they were appealing the decision. During hearings, federal government attorneys argued that the head count needed to end 30 September in order to meet a 31 December deadline for handing in figures used for apportionment.
In response to the pandemic, the Census Bureau last April pushed back the deadline for ending the 2020 census from the end of July to the end of October. The bureau also asked Congress to let it turn in numbers used for apportionment from the end of December to the end of April.
The deadline extension passed the Democratic-controlled House but it stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate after Trump issued a memorandum seeking to exclude people in the country illegally from being used in the apportionment count. A panel of three judges in New York said earlier this month that the memorandum was unlawful.