A coalition led by the National Urban League asked a federal judge on Tuesday to act promptly and extend the 2020 census response deadline, which is just over a month away.
The Trump administration set September 30 as the date to stop collecting responses, despite earlier saying it needs extra time due to the pandemic. As recently as July, Census Bureau officials said publicly that they would need an extension to complete an accurate count of the nation’s population.
The groups filed a lawsuit last week, accusing the Trump administration of illegally and unconstitutionally compressing the time the Census Bureau has to follow up with households that do not respond to the census survey.
The motion for a stay and preliminary injunction accuses the administration of sticking to the September 30 date so that “regardless of the outcome of the November election,” it can exclude noncitizens when redistributing seats in Congress. If Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the White House and the count is delayed, his administration could overturn the Trump administration’s approach to apportionment.
“The Rush Plan is meant to ensure that President Trump retains control over the final apportionment figures—regardless of the impact on the accuracy of the 2020 Census,” the filing reads.
The groups also argued the administration had not offered a valid justification for completing the count by September 30. They claimed the administration’s rationale of a December 31 deadline set by Congress to produce the first set of final numbers could be unconstitutional given the pandemic.
“There is no constitutional requirement that the census conclude by the end of the year, and any government or public interest in the agency’s compliance with the statutory deadline is outweighed by the constitutional harm that will result from the Rush Plan,” the filing reads. Timelines set in law “must necessarily bow to the constitutional duty to conduct an accurate census.”
The filing includes a statement from the most recent former Census Bureau director, John Thompson, who said he believes that “reducing the time for data collection at this late date will most likely have grave and material consequences for the 2020 Census and public perceptions of its legitimacy.”
The groups behind the lawsuit also include the League of Women Voters and several counties and municipalities in California and Texas.
The Census Bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. The government is expected to have until early September to file an official response with the court.