Trump administration asks Supreme Court to block order extending census count
Photo credit: Stephanie Sundier
Trump administration asks Supreme Court to block order extending census count

The Trump administration filed an emergency request with the US Supreme Court on Wednesday in an attempt to conclude the 2020 census count immediately. The request asks the Supreme Court to block an order issued by the US District Court for the Northern District of California that prevents the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce from ending the census count early.

The administration argues that continuing the census count through October will prevent the Secretary of Commerce from reporting the data to the President by the December 31 statutory deadline. The administration filed the request hours after a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied a similar appeal from the administration to reverse the lower court’s order.

The three-judge panel ordered the census count to continue through the original October 31 deadline. The Ninth Circuit found that “missing the deadline would likely not invalidate” the census data delivered to the President and that an extension for the statutory deadline “may well be approved by Congress after-the-fact, as has happened in the past.”

The administration’s emergency request filing to the Supreme Court asserts that the lower court’s order requires the Census Bureau to violate the December 31 statutory deadline of reporting census data to the President. The administration argues that the lower court’s ruling “constitutes an intrusion into the Executive’s ability to conduct the census” and that “courts should not order agencies to violate statutory deadlines.”

Further, the administration claims the lower court erred in declining to consider a sworn statement from the Census Bureau’s associate director, Al Fontenot. Fontenot stated if the census count continues, the bureau is not likely to produce “a complete and accurate census” by the statutory deadline because it will require the bureau to shorten the post-data collection processing phase.

The concern about the administration’s request to shorten the census schedule stems from the fact that doing so would likely produce inaccurate census data and impede the accurate redistribution of seats in the House of Representatives among the states based on their latest populations.