/Supreme Court temporarily allows Trump administration to end census head count

Supreme Court temporarily allows Trump administration to end census head count

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily allowed the Trump administration to end its 2020 census count earlier than planned, a move that could result in undercounting racial and ethnic minorities and others in hard-to-reach communities.

The Commerce Department had asked the justices to block a lower court ruling that barred the administration from stopping the head count on Oct. 5. The administration had sought to stop counting in order to determine the number of House seats and electoral votes each state gets for the coming decade by Dec. 31, before Trump might have to leave office.

While the decision was unsigned, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor registered her dissent. She said “meeting the deadline at the expense of the accuracy of the census is not a cost worth paying.”

“The harms caused by rushing this year’s census count are irreparable,” Sotomayor wrote. “And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years.”

The action blocks a federal judge’s decision that would have kept census workers in the field through the end of the month. That in turn would have made April 30 the deadline for reporting final numbers used to apportion House seats and distribute federal funds for the next 10 years.

On a separate track, the Trump administration has asked the court to let it exclude undocumented immigrants from the numbers used to apportion House seats. A federal court has blocked the move, which the Justice Department has appealed to the justices.

The moving calendar targets are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted Census Bureau workers going door to door. The administration initially sought the Oct. 31 deadline, which represented a three-month delay, but later moved it up to Oct. 5, so that the report on apportionment could be delivered to President Donald Trump by the end of the year.

In the past, the Supreme Court has not looked kindly on the Trump administration’s use of the census. In June 2019, it blocked the president’s plan to add a question on citizenship, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing that the rationale “seems to have been contrived.”