Commerce Secretary Defies Court Order, Announces October 5th End to Census

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross will halt the 2020 Census on October 5, defying a federal judge’s order that it continue until October 31, the US Census Bureau and Commerce Department jointly announced on Monday.

Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

The Census Bureau confirmed Ross’s orders on Twitter:

The Secretary of Commerce has announced a target date of October 5, 2020 to conclude 2020 Census self-response and field data collection operations.

“The Secretary of Commerce has announced a target date of October 5, 2020 to conclude 2020 Census self-response and field data collection operations,” the Commerce Department repeated in a press release shortly after the Census Bureau’s tweet.

Last week, US District Judge Lucy Koh issued a preliminary injunction suspending the Commerce Department’s completion deadline of Septemeber 30, which automatically extended the national population tally until October 31, the date set by the US Census Bureau. The census was originally scheduled to conclude in July, but the coronavirus pandemic made that impossible.

In her ruling, Koh said that the September 30 deadline established by the Trump Administration would not allow enough time to collect accurate data, particularly among communities of color.

Koh was holding a virtual hearing as a followup to her injunction, which included a restraining order aimed at preventing the Census Bureau from defying her ruling, at the same time the Commerce Department made its announcement on Monday.

Koh tore into the government’s excuse that her ruling amounted to a vague moving of the goalposts with no clear objective.

“A one sentence tweet? Are you saying that is enough reason to establish decision-making? A one sentence tweet?” Koh replied, according to reporting from the Associated Press.

The AP also reported that census workers across the country have been saying that they are preparing to end operations this coming Wednesday:

In upstate New York, a census supervisor told her census takers Friday that the Buffalo office was operating with Sept. 30 as the end date, according to a text obtained by AP. “5 days left (no matter what the court status),” the text said.

In northern California, a manager told supervisors working under him on Sunday, “We’re in the home stretch with only 3 days left,” according to an email obtained by AP.

In that same region, a different manager told the census supervisors working underneath her Monday that they needed to complete 99% of households in the the Santa Rosa region by Wednesday, including 12,000 households yet to be counted in Mendocino County. In the conference call, area manager Nicole Terrazas pleaded with her supervisors to ask their census takers to head to Mendocino County, even though that part of California is under threat of wildfires.

‘We need as much help as we can get. We only have three days to do it,’ said Terrazas on a call that an AP reporter listened in on.

The administration’s willingness to ignore court orders has thrust the country into dangerous new territory, Walter Schaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, tweeted after the announcement:

I’m waiting for more details on the Wilbur Ross story. But if it turns out we’re at the point where the administration is going to flatly refuse to comply with court orders, well, that would be the opening of the sixth seal.

Thirty-six days until the election.

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