Judge says ending 2020 census on Oct. 5 may violate order

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Amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19, census worker Ken Leonard wears a mask as he mans a U.S. Census walk-up counting site set up for Hunt County in Greenville, Texas, Friday, July 31, 2020. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

A federal judge on Tuesday said a revised Oct. 5 date the U.S. Commerce Department picked to end the 2020 census may violate an order she issued last week that cleared the way for the head count of every U.S. resident to continue through the end of October.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh suggested she would be open to considering a motion of contempt against the federal government or a motion saying her order had been violated.

Last week, the San Jose, California, judge suspended the U.S. Census Bureau’s deadline for ending the head count on Wednesday, which automatically reverted the deadline back to an older Census Bureau plan in which the timeline for ending field operations was Oct. 31. Her order also suspended a Dec. 31 deadline for the Census Bureau to turn in numbers used for apportionment, the process of deciding how many congressional seats each state gets.

In her decision, Koh sided with civil rights groups and local governments that had sued the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce, which oversees the statistical agency, arguing that minorities and others in hard-to-count communities would be missed if the counting ended at the end of September instead of the end of October.

The decision to end the 2020 census on Oct. 5, credited to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday, was built on the idea of turning in the apportionment numbers by Dec. 31 which violates her injunction, the judge said.

“I think it's inconsistent with what I ordered last Thursday," Koh said.

August Flentje, an attorney for President Donald Trump's administration, said the suggestion that the federal government should be held in contempt was “unfair."

Trump administration attorneys were in courts on both coasts Tuesday, fighting over when the 2020 census would end and how the data would be used for deciding how many congressional seats each state gets.