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2020 Census Update: Two Strikes and Response Rates

By A. Kelli Higgs, Esq.



Recent court rulings regarding the 2020 Census can be likened to a baseball game. The U.S. Department of Commerce is at bat on behalf of the U.S. Census Bureau. The opposing team covering the field is comprised of mayors of cities, civil rights organizations, and advocacy groups. Fans in the stands were replaced by cardboard cutouts due to COVID-19.

First swing, strike one. On September 5, 2020 a federal court in California issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Commerce Department. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ordered the Census Bureau to temporarily stop “winding down or altering any Census field operations.” The decision was based the irreparable harm that could result from an inaccurate population count.

Second swing, strike two. On September 10, 2020, a three-judge federal court panel in New York ruled that President Trump’s plan to exclude immigrants, living in the U.S. without proper documentation, from population counts used to allocate seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, was “an unlawful exercise of the authority granted to the President.”

According to Section 2 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State . . .” The panel of judges unanimously declared Trump’s order was unlawful because including less than all persons in each State in the population count would violate the U.S. Constitution. If the Commerce Department appeals the decision, Innings will be added to the Census 2020 game. Judicious umpires are aware of the clock and calendar. The Census Bureau planned to wind-down counting activities by September 30, 2020.

The Commerce Department’s next turn at bat is scheduled for Thursday, September 17, 2020. The court appearance is a follow-up to the previously issued TRO, which paused all efforts to shorten the Census 2020 data collection period from the original date of October 31, 2020. Judge Koh will review the Commerce Department’s rationale for limiting the collection period and determine whether a preliminary injunction is the appropriate remedy.

During the forced time out of approximately two weeks, counties throughout New York State have continued bringing in local officials and pinch hitters to convince residents to join the count.

Westchester County’s Census 2020 Response Rate of 67.2%, remains ahead of the U.S. (65.6%) and New York State (62.2%), and is on track to exceed the Census 2010 Response Rate of 67.9%.

There’s still time for residents to get in the game. Complete Census 2020 online (www.my2020census.gov), by phone (1-844-330-2020/English and (844) 468-2020/Spanish), or by returning your Census form by mail.

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