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The Trump administration may end the 2020 census census after the Supreme Court initially approves a motion to suspend a lower court order extending the census schedule.
The Supreme Court’s decision following an urgency request from the Justice Department last week marks the final turn in a roller coaster ride in litigation over the count’s schedule.
Last minute changes by the Census Bureau and bypassing a previous court order on the census have left local communities and office staff in the US unsure of how long they can attend a national number of staff, which is already affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Previously, the lower courts had ordered the administration to keep counting through October 31, using an expanded schedule proposed by Trump officials in April in response to the delays caused by the pandemic, and then abruptly decided in July to give up.
More time, the judges ruled, would give the bureau a better chance of obtaining an accurate and complete population census that will determine how political representation and federal funding will be distributed among states over the next decade.
Justice Department lawyers say the Census Bureau is under pressure to meet a legal deadline of December 31 to report to the president the first census results – the latest population figures that determine each state’s share of the 435 House seats. The numbers, in turn, determine how many electoral college votes each state must have to determine who will become US President in 2024 and 2028.
However, since May, career officials at the office have been warning that the agency will no longer be able to meet the December 31 reporting deadline due to the pandemic. Lower court judges have also found that the 1810-1840 national censuses were late in being delivered and Congress later stepped in to approve the deadline extensions.
If the Secretary of Commerce overseeing the office were to present the new state censuses to the White House by December 31st, it would ensure that even if he didn’t win re-election, President Trump could try to make the unprecedented change he wants to find out who will be counted in determining the reallocation of house seats.
Despite the constitution’s requirement to include “the total number of people in each state” and the president’s limited authority over the census, Trump wants to try to exclude unauthorized immigrants from those numbers. These efforts have sparked another legal battle that is also being brought before the Supreme Court.