Court Shoots Down Trump’s Effort to End the Census Early, Deadline Extended to October 31

The Trump administration had tried to cut the Census Bureau’s canvassing period short.

An organizer helps spread the word about the census in California in August.Terry Pierson/Orange County Register/Zuma

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A federal court has ordered the Census Bureau to continue counting United States residents through October 31, reversing a move by the Trump administration to halt census outreach efforts on Sept. 30, NPR reports.

To make up for delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau had initially extended the enumeration period—in which the agency attempts to count every US household that has not already responded to the census on its own—until October 31. But in July, following the Trump administration’s addition of several political appointees to the Census Bureau, the agency announced that it would cut the enumeration period short to September 30, leaving census organizers scrambling to get everyone in their communities counted and adding further confusion to a census that has been riddled with controversy and uncertainty.

The US district judge who issued the preliminary injunction mandating the extension Thursday noted that those most likely to be harmed by a shortened enumeration period are people of color and immigrants, who are often among the hardest populations to count. Native Americans, for example, are the most chronically undercounted ethnic group, in part because of logistical constraints like the lack of traditional mailing addresses, and in part because of a distrust of the government stemming from hundreds of years of marginalization. Meanwhile, organizers in Mexican–American communities in Texas near the state’s southern border are struggling to overcome the confusion caused by Trump’s failed efforts to add a citizenship question to the census.

The restoration of the October 31 deadline will give community organizers a precious extra month to ensure that these populations receive the political representation and federal funding that come with an accurate count. Still, this isn’t an unconditional victory: The Justice Department is expected to appeal the court’s decision.

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