The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted a preliminary injunction on Thursday preventing the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce from ending the national census count on September 30. The order requires the Census Bureau to continue the Census count until the original deadline of October 31.
A group of civil rights organizations, tribal and local governments, and individuals filed the lawsuit after the Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced the Census data collection would stop on September 30. The plaintiffs alleged that cutting the Census count short by a month would likely result in undercounting. They argued that the undercounting would cause them to lose “federal funds that turn on census data” and deprive them of their “fair share of political representation.” In turn, the Trump administration argued that the September 30 deadline was necessary to meet a December 31 statutory deadline for delivering apportionment and redistricting data to the President. The court previously issued a temporary restraining order at the beginning of September preventing the Census Bureau from beginning to wind down its operations until after a hearing on a preliminary injunction could be held.
District Judge Lucy H. Koh concluded that the defendants failed to consider important aspects of the issue, namely that shortening the deadline would produce inaccurate census data and negatively impact political representation and government funding around the country. Judge Koh reasoned that the administration’s shortened census schedule would impede the accurate redistribution of seats in the House of Representatives among the states based on their latest populations. Furthermore, this harm would not be remedied for another decade, until the next decennial census.
The Justice Department filed a notice on Friday that they will appeal the order to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.