top of page

2020 Census Update: September Surprise and Response Rates

With every American political cycle, there is an expectation that an event will occur and influence the outcome of an election. When the event occurs within a few weeks of an election, deliberately or by happenstance, it is known as an “October Surprise”. The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, on September 18, 2020, is comparable to a “September Surprise”.

According to the Court, Justice Ginsburg died of metastatic pancreatic cancer, at age 87. Born in Brooklyn, NY, she embraced “The Notorious R.B.G.” moniker. It was a reference to the late Brooklyn-born rapper, “The Notorious B.I.G.”, and her fiery dissenting opinions in 5-4 decisions written by the conservative wing of the Court.

Justice Ginsburg’s precedent setting achievements were often likened to those of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. She was to gender equality what he was to education equality. Both jurists relied on Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to advance advocacy for equal protection of the law.

Section 2 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution broadly outlines the manner in which congressional representation is allotted and the census must occur; “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state . . .”

Census 2020 began on April 1st and was scheduled to end on October 31st. On August 3rd, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the data collection period would end on September 30th. The shortened counting period triggered a lawsuit on the basis that the reduced timeframe will cause irreparable harm by undercounting residents, lead to the inaccurate distribution of federal funding, and adversely impact electoral representation for the next decade.

A coalition of advocacy groups, led by the National Urban League, awaits a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh. The coalition is seeking a court order directing the Census Bureau to adhere to the October 31st end date for collecting data.

The court’s decision was expected on September 17, 2020. In response to the Census Bureau’s request for an extension, a decision will be issued on September 24th or shortly thereafter. Until then, all efforts to wind down Census 2020 have been paused. Counting continues nationwide.

For 2020, the U.S., New York State, and Westchester County are within reach of outpacing their 2010 and 2000 Response Rates. Time is running out for residents to complete Census 2020 online (, by phone (1-844-330-2020/English and (844) 468-2020/Spanish), or by returning their census form by mail.

Honor the memory of Justice Ginsburg and those seeking to advance “Equal Justice Under Law”. Join the count before the arrival of an October Surprise!


bottom of page