A federal judge in California has ordered the 2020 census count to continue through the end of October because a shortened schedule would likely produce inaccurate results for hard-to-count communities.
The preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh Thursday is the latest development in the federal lawsuit over the Trump administration's decision to shorten the timeline for the headcount of every U.S. resident. Government attorneys are expected to appeal.
Because the coronavirus pandemic caused a disruption in data collection, the U.S. Census Bureau initially extended the census deadline earlier this year to Oct. 31 and the deadline for reporting totals to April 2021. But in July, the bureau's director Steven Dillingham announced it would "accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts" to report the totals by Dec. 31 at the direction of the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
Attorneys for the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce argued that census counting must stop by the end of September so that the numbers used for deciding how many congressional seats each state gets could be given to the president by this new deadline.
A group of civil rights organizations and local governments sued the Census Bureau to block the government from ending the count in September, arguing that the shortened schedule would result in undercounting minority groups.
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Koh found the shortened schedule would produce inaccuracies that would affect how $1.5 trillion in federal funds is distributed and how many congressional seats each state gets.
Los Angeles' City Attorney Mike Feuer called the injunction was a major victory for a more accurate census count in a statement.
"The court saw through the Trump administration's efforts to camouflage its political interference in what is supposed to be the neutral, nonpartisan process of counting every person," Feuer said. "Now, with little time to lose and so much at stake, I urge everyone to take the few moments necessary to be included in the census."
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2020 Census: Judge rules counting must continue through October 31