Ross Sets ‘Target Date’ For Ending Census That Seems To Flout Judge’s Order

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 14: U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on March 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. Ross testified about ongoing preparations for the 2020 Cens... WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 14: U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on March 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. Ross testified about ongoing preparations for the 2020 Census, and with it, the addition of a citizenship question. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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September 28, 2020 6:18 p.m.

The Census Bureau said Monday that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had set Oct. 5 as a “target date” for finishing data collection for 2020’s count — an announcement that seems to fly in the face of a federal judge’s order that those operations continue through the end of October.

The Census Bureau’s press shop could not provide TPM with any more information beyond a link to a statement matching the initial tweet with the announcement. House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney meanwhile bashed the “cryptic announcement” and called on the administration to stop”working to politicize and jeopardize the 2020 Census.”

The tweet capped off what had already been an odd day in the litigation over when and how the census should be allowed to wind down.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh — who late last week had halted the administration’s plans to finish data collection on Sept. 31 — ordered that the parties respond to multiple emails the court received from people claiming to have evidence that Bureau enumerators were being told to disregard her orders in the case.

The Trump administration has already appealed Koh’s Friday order extending the timeline for the count. The administration is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to immediately put that order on hold while the appeal is litigated.

When the pandemic took hold this spring, Ross announced that the Census Bureau needed four additional months to complete the count, and asked for Congress to extend the statutory deadlines the Bureau faces, including a Dec. 31 deadline for delivering the apportionment data. Part of that reworked timeline extended data collection until Oct. 31.

Over the summer, however, the administration backed down from that request and Ross ordered the Bureau in late July to come up with a truncated timeline that ended data collection at the end of this month. Koh’s order halted the administration from implementing that truncated deadline.

The tweet was posted just before a hearing dealing with other matters in the case was set to began in front of Koh. At the hearing, the judge ordered that the administration produce by Tuesday documents related to the decision to set the “target date.”

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