US District Judge Lucy Koh Saturday granted a temporary restraining order blocking the Trump administration’s new plans to wind down all US Census counting efforts by September 31, instead of the previously announced October 31st date.
US Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced the earlier end date in August despite strenuous criticism from rights groups. On Thursday, a coalition led by the National Urban League filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent “any further actions to implement the shortened timelines” until a hearing on the preliminary injunction motion could take place. The plaintiffs claimed that rushing the census count would irreparably harm the public interest with a higher risk of undercounting. They also claimed that an inaccurate count would violate their constitutional right to political representation.
In issuing his order, Judge Koh observed that “because the decennial census is at issue here, an inaccurate count would not be remedied for another decade, which would affect the distribution of federal and state funding, the deployment of services, and the allocation of local resources for a decade.”
“Today’s ruling is a necessary and encouraging first step toward saving the 2020 Census from a massive undercount that will disproportionately affect our country’s communities of color,” said Thomas Wolf, senior counsel and Spitzer Fellow with the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, one of the groups in the coalition seeking the TRO. “The 2020 Census needs more time than the Trump administration is offering if we are going to get the full, fair, and accurate count that the Constitution guarantees. Today’s ruling buys the census some precious and indispensable time by barring the administration from shutting down the count while the federal courts are still considering our request for relief.”
For now, the administration’s efforts to follow the September 31st shortened timeline must stop until at least the first preliminary injunction hearing, expected on September 17th.