Federal judge orders temporary halt to Census Bureau’s Sept. 30 deadline 

September 8, 2020
September 8, 2020 Joe Amditis

By D. Kevin McNeir, New Jersey Urban News 

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A federal judge recently ordered the U.S. Census Bureau to stop following a plan that would have had it winding down operations in order to complete the Census 2020 count at the end of September.

The federal judge in San Jose late Saturday issued a temporary restraining order against the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department which oversees the agency. The order stops the Census Bureau from winding down operations for now with a court hearing scheduled on Sept. 17.

The head count of every U.S. resident which occurs every 10 years, helps elected officials decide how $1.5 trillion in federal funding is distributed. The results also impact the critical process of apportionment – that is, the determining of how many congressional seats each state receives.

The temporary restraining order, requested by a coalition of cities, counties and civil rights groups following a suit filed against the U.S. Census Bureau, agrees with the plaintiffs’ demand that the Bureau restore its previous plan for finishing the census at the end of October, instead of using a revised plan to end operations on September 30th. The coalition had argued the earlier deadline would cause the Census Bureau to overlook minority communities in the census, leading to an inaccurate count.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh indicated in her ruling that previous court cases had concluded that it’s in the public interest that Congress be fairly apportioned and that the federal funds be distributed using an accurate census, writing, “the balance of the hardships and public interest tip sharply in Plaintiffs’ favor.”

The Bureau has emailed regional offices and headquarters, confirming that the statistical agency and the Commerce Department “are obligated to comply with the Court’s Order and are taking immediate steps to do so.”

The Bureau added that further guidance will be provided at a later date.

This story was part of the 2020 Census: New Jersey Media Counts program, an initiative of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.

Joe Amditis

Joe Amditis is the associate director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. He graduated from Rutgers University in 2013 and earned his B.A. with a double-major in political science and criminal justice before going on to earn his M.A. from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. He is the co-founder and former director of operations of Muckgers, an hyperlocal, student-focused, investigative publication serving the Rutgers-New Brunswick community. Joe is also a seven-year veteran of the New Jersey Army National Guard and deployed to Iraq from 2008-2009.