US Official: 2020 Census to End Oct. 5 Despite Court Order

September 30, 2020 Updated: September 30, 2020

ORLANDO, Fla.—U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross says the 2020 census will end Oct. 5, despite a federal judge’s ruling last week that the headcount of every U.S. resident should continue through the end of October, according to a tweet posted on the Census Bureau’s website Sept. 28.

The tweet said the ability for people to self-respond to the census questionnaire and the door-knocking phase when census takers go to homes that haven’t yet responded is ending Oct. 5.

The announcement came as a virtual hearing was being held in San Jose, California, as a follow-up to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh’s preliminary injunction. The injunction ordered last week suspended the Census Bureau’s deadline for ending the headcount on Sept. 30, which automatically reverted the deadline back to an older Census Bureau plan in which the deadline for ending field operations was Oct. 31.

The new Oct. 5 deadline doesn’t necessarily violate the judge’s order because the injunction just suspended the Sept. 30 deadline for field operations and a Dec. 31 deadline the Census Bureau has for turning in figures used for determining how many congressional seats each state gets in a process known as apportionment.

Koh asked federal government attorneys during Monday’s hearing to provide documents on how the new decision to end the headcount on Oct. 5 was made. When a federal government lawyer suggested that the decision making was a moving target without any records, the judge asked, “A one-sentence tweet? Are you saying that is enough reason to establish decision-making? A one-sentence tweet?”

Koh said in her ruling last Thursday that the shortened schedule likely would produce inaccurate results that would last a decade. She sided with civil rights groups and local governments that had sued the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the statistical agency, arguing that minorities and others in hard-to-count communities would be missed if the counting ends this month.

Attorneys for the federal government said they were appealing the decision. During hearings, federal government attorneys argued that the headcount needed to end Sept. 30 in order to meet a Dec. 31 deadline for handing in figures used for deciding how many congressional seats each state gets in a process known as apportionment.