Wilbur Ross Loses Ruling Over Move to End Census Count Early
WASHINGTON — A U.S. appeals court upheld an order requiring Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and his department to keep the census count going until the end of the month.
Wednesday’s ruling maintains a decision by a California federal judge who blocked the Trump administration’s plan to curtail the timeline for the once-a-decade nationwide population count. But the three-judge panel also ruled that the Census Bureau can attempt to make a shortened Dec. 31 deadline it set for itself to make a final report to President Donald Trump.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh last month agreed with civil rights groups that arguing Ross’s revised timeline to wrap up field operations a month early would result in an undercount of minorities, reducing federal and state funding as well as Congressional representation for the areas they live in. For weeks, Koh has wrestled with administration lawyers over what she has described as its “lurching from one hasty, unexplained plan to the next.”
On Sept. 24, Koh blocked the Commerce Department from moving its deadline for data collection from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30, and for reporting to the president from April 30, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2020. The Commerce Department appealed the ruling.
Lawyers for Ross argued its shortened deadline to end data collection by Sept. 30 is required to achieve “maximum accuracy” of the population count and to get a final report to Trump by Dec. 31.
Even after Koh’s ruling, the judge has continued to receive emails from census field workers explaining that they were ordered to turn in their electronic equipment and can’t continue their work counting people without it.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco supported Koh’s conclusion that Ross and the Census Bureau didn’t rely on a reasoned explanation for its abrupt curtailing of deadlines, amounting to a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
“The government has not made a strong showing that it is likely to prevail on appeal on its primary challenge” to Koh’s ruling, the appeals panel said.
©2020 Bloomberg News
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