Federal judge issues ruling to require Census count to continue thru Oct. 31

The U.S. Census logo appears on census materials received in the mail with an invitation to fill out census information online on March 19, 2020 in San Anselmo, California. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

City Attorney Mike Feuer Friday declared a "victory" for Los Angeles and a national coalition of local governments and civil rights organizations after a federal judge ruled in their favor to maintain the 2020 U.S. Census ending date.

The coalition, which includes the city of Los Angeles, sued the administration in August after it was announced counting would end Sept. 30.

The order was made late Thursday in the Northern District of California by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, and requires the U.S. Census Bureau to continue to count people through Oct. 31 despite the Trump administration's attempt to change the end date to a month earlier.

"The court's ruling is a victory for everyone who relies on an accurate census count for key federal funding and fair political representation," Feuer said. "Outreach and counting must continue through October, and Judge Koh made it utterly clear that she will not tolerate any further Trump administration efforts to cut this vital process short.

"The administration must stop playing games with this fundamental constitutional requirement and ensure the hard work of counting every American is accomplished."

The order also increases the time the Census Bureau will have to compile its data from 4 1/2 months to 8 1/2 months, which was part of the census plan devised in April.

Shortly after last Thursday's issuance of the preliminary injunction, the Trump administration filed a motion to block the court's ruling. An appeals court could still take up the matter.

Feuer told reporters last Friday that he is "confident" that even if the ruling goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, it will be upheld because it was so "thorough and well-reasoned."

Earlier this week, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Trump administration's request to set aside Koh's preliminary injunction while it is on appeal.

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In April, when the COVID-19 pandemic was in its early stages and stay-at-home orders had been issued in certain regions across the nation, the Census Bureau announced it would extend the deadline for people to respond to Oct. 31.

But on Aug. 3, the bureau shortened the deadline to Sept. 30.

Last Thursday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said the Los Angeles region's response rate to the census was at 57.5% -- far below the last census count in 2010 when 68% of residents responded, and below this year's state average of 65%.

Garcetti called Koh's ruling a "victory" for fairness in obtaining the resources and representation that Los Angeles needs.

"The administration, let's be very clear, if it had ... its way, would have had in place a plan that would have almost assured an undercount in hard-to-count places, like here in Los Angeles," Feuer said.

Prior to filing the suit, Feuer issued a demand letter to the U.S. Census Bureau seeking confirmation that it was changing direction and implementing the rushed plan instead of the COVID-19 plan.

Feuer said four former U.S. Census directors told him the compressed timeline would "result in seriously incomplete enumeration in many areas across our country."

Los Angeles was joined in filing the lawsuit by the League of Women Voters of the United States, National Urban League, Black Alliance for Immigration, the cities of Salinas and San Jose, and Harris County, Texas, Court Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia.

According to National Public Radio, the latest ruling by Koh came after days of confusion sparked by a one-sentence tweet from the Census Bureau that Koh called "(perhaps) the most egregious violation" of the preliminary injunction order she issued last week.

The bureau released the tweet minutes before the judge began a virtual conference Monday about the lawsuit that said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the bureau, had announced Oct. 5 as a "target date" for ending all counting efforts.