By STEPHANIE EBBS, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court granted the Trump administration’s request to end the Census count as soon as possible, overturning a federal court order requiring the Census Bureau to continue the count until Oct. 31.
The lawsuit that prompted the case was brought by civil rights groups including the National Urban League who argue the administration’s push to end the counting process early, despite an earlier push to extend the process to account for delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, would lead to inaccurate data that would disproportionately hurt disadvantaged communities.
Census data is used to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds for health care, housing programs, and education and the data is used to determine representation in congressional districts for the next 10 years.
The administration argued it needed to stop the count as soon as possible to complete data analysis in time to meet the statutory deadline to report Census information to the president and Congress by Dec. 31. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a lower court order requiring the bureau to continue counting through the end of this month means the Census Bureau could end counting soon and move to an accelerated analysis phase to try to meet that deadline.
The Census Bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the next steps for Census operations.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, saying the harm from an inaccurate count is irreparable and the administration has previously said the deadlines would be impossible to meet anyway.
Melissa Arbus Sherry, an attorney with Latham & Watkins who argued the case, said that even though the Supreme Court did not rule in their favor the time added to Census operations as a result of their case resulted in millions more Americans being counted.
“Every day has mattered, and the Supreme Court’s order staying the preliminary injunction does not erase the tremendous progress that has been made as a result of the district court’s rulings. Although the Court did not explain its reasoning, Justice Sotomayor’s recognition of the troublesome facts underlying Defendants’ conduct highlights the importance of Plaintiffs’ efforts in this critical case,” she said in a statement.
The Census Bureau said that 99.9% of households in the U.S. have been counted, with 33.1% of that count completed by Census takers in the field.
The Supreme Court has not yet decided a separate case on whether the administration can exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment process used to determine congressional districts. The justices will discuss whether to hear oral arguments on that case later this week.
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