Judge Orders Trump Admin Stop ‘Winding Down’ Census Collection, Processing Efforts

A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to temporarily stop efforts to wind down the collection of data and processing of timelines for the 2020 Census, The Hill reported.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh issued a temporary restraining order late Saturday blocking Trump administration officials, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, from implementing plans that would shorten census efforts, including “winding down or altering any Census field operations.”

The restraining order was filed in response to a legal motion from a coalition civil rights and advocacy groups that claimed such plans would illegally harm the accuracy of the Census data and possibly inflict harm on certain communities as a result. The Census helps determine federal funding levels for state and local governments. 

The restraining order will remain in effect until Sept. 17, when a court hears a separate motion for a stay and preliminary injunction. 

“The court rightfully recognized the Trump administration’s attempted short-circuiting of our nation’s census as an imminent threat to the completion of a fair and accurate process,” Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the groups that filed the complaint, said in a statement. “President Trump and Secretary Ross’ decisions to undermine the process may have deprived vulnerable communities of fair representation and fair allocation of funds for the next 10 years or more.”  

The Trump administration recently began moving forward with a plan that would cut Census collection efforts from eight months to four months, the order noted, adding that the administration’s plan calls for counting from the Census Bureau to stop on Sept. 30, about 30 days before the original end date. 

The lawsuit claims the new plan would lead to irreparable harm because an inaccurate Census could cause a loss in federal funding for plaintiffs, among other issues. In her decision, Koh said the harm was “potentially” irreparable, noting an inaccurate Census count would not be remedied for another decade and affect the distribution of federal funding and local resources.

In August, the Trump administration shortened the census’s enumeration period because of statutory constraints caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The shortened timeline has prompted concerns from officials outside the administration, including the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The agency released a report last month saying a shortened survey period could increase the risk of an inaccurate count. 

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