A federal judge late Saturday issued a restraining order against the Trump administration forbidding it from ending in-person census counting on Sept. 30, ruling that more time is needed in order to have an accurate count.
Judge Lucy H. Koh, an Obama appointee to the bench for the Northern District of California, blocked the Census Bureau from following through on its Aug. 3 plans, which called for surging census takers into the field in August and September in order to be done by the end of the month, with a count submitted to Congress by the end of this year.
The Census Bureau had previously said that because of the coronavirus pandemic, operations would have to stretch later into the year, with a final count submitted to Congress next April.
Judge Koh said she hasn’t made a final ruling on the schedule, but issued the restraining order to keep the bureau on track for the extended schedule while she ponders the broader questions.
President Trump’s opponents still hailed the ruling as a major victory.
“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,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The Census Bureau alerted employees to keep going with the counting.
“The Census Bureau and the Commerce Department are obligated to comply with the court’s order and are taking immediate steps to do so,” the agency said in an email to field leaders.
More than 85% of households have been counted for the 2020 census, with census takers working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. The bureau has offered bonuses to try to spur faster work in order to meet the end-of-month deadline.
Trump opponents, though, say there’s no way to get a full count in the weeks left before Sept. 30.
Hundreds of billions of dollars in government programs depend on census numbers, and so does the breakdown of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Mr. Trump has issued a directive ordering the census to produce an additional count that tries to subtract illegal immigrants from the total, saying that’s the count Congress should use when divvying up House seats next year.
That directive, too, is being challenged in courtrooms across the country.