The Center Square

The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 13 stopped the 2020 Census head count in response to a request from the Trump administration, handing a blow to a coalition of local governments and civil rights groups that filed suit.

The coalition sued to stop the census count from ending Sept. 30, which the Trump administration had planned in order to meet a deadline stipulated by law. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ruled that the count could continue through Oct. 31, which the Trump administration appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and won.

The administration argued the count needed to end immediately in order for the U.S. Census Bureau to have enough time to tally the numbers before a congressionally mandated Dec. 31 deadline. Counting and compiling all the data is necessary to accurately determine the number of congressional seats apportioned to each state based on population totals.

The U.S. Census Bureau argued before the court that it had already counted 99.9 percent of households in the U.S. in 2020. But census takers have raised concerns about the quality of the data being collected, and the American Statistical Association released a report Tuesday expressing similar concerns.

Their report, written by a task force of former Census Bureau directors and others, raises concerns about the shortened head count schedule, pending lawsuits and other issues. The task forces argues that outside experts should be given access to the data to help analyze its quality before it is used to determine congressional seats. They also recommended that federal law governing the census be reevaluated.

Results of the door-knocking phase of the 2020 census this year are similar to those received from the 2010 Census, Al Fontenot, an associate director at the Census Bureau, said in court papers. Nearly 24 percent of responses resulted from interviews with neighbors or landlords or someone other than the person living in the household that was being counted in both 2020 and 2010.

The 2020 Census, Fontenot said, is the first decennial census in which records from the IRS, Social Security and Medicare accounted for 13.9 percent of the information the Bureau collected about residents instead of receiving the information directly from them.

In addition to apportioning congressional seats, the population data calculated by the Census Bureau also determines how much of $1.5 trillion in federal money is allocated to states.


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