Cities, counties and civil rights and immigration groups launched a last-minute sprint Wednesday to get people to respond to the census, after the Trump administration announced it will cut off the 2020 count just before midnight Thursday.
Though 99.9% of households have been counted, the remaining tenth of a percent accounts for about 150,000 households.
“Every second matters,” said Yesenia Mata, executive director of La Colmena, a New York-based immigration group.
New York Attorney General Leticia James, a Democrat who has battled Mr. Trump in the courts over the census, said the way to thwart the administration was to be counted before the deadline.
“It’s now in the hands of New Yorkers,” she said. “It’s up to every one of us to complete the census and be counted. The economic progress and the electoral power we have worked so hard to achieve for New York are at stake.”
Census takers will continue to canvass neighborhoods through the end of the day Thursday, while internet responses will be cut off at midnight Hawaii time, which is 6 a.m. Friday in Washington, D.C. Paper responses can be counted as long as they are postmarked by Oct. 15.
The bureau announced those deadlines just hours after a Supreme Court ruling that cleared the path for the bureau to bring the 2020 count to a close.
A lower court had directed the Census Bureau to continue the count up through the end of this month, but the justices put that decision on ice.
The law calls for the count to end Sept. 30, but that has been heatedly contested during the coronavirus pandemic, which curtailed in-person counting for months. Originally the Trump administration said it would take an extra month to finish the count, then reversed itself and set an Oct. 5 target for finishing.
A federal judge in California had ordered the bureau to stick with the extra month plan, but this week’s Supreme Court decision unwinds that. Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a dissent, suggesting a striking agreement between the other seven justices.
At stake in the census is the allocation of trillions of welfare, education and other public dollars that will be doled out over the next decade based on the numbers. The count will also determine the allocation of seats among states in the U.S. House for the next decade.
President Trump has ordered the Census Bureau to come up with two counts this year — one of the total universe of residents, and the second that would attempt to slice out illegal immigrants from that.
That directive is also now tied up in the courts, with several injunctions issued.
The fact that only Justice Sotomayor dissented from this week’s decision halting counting shocked those on the left, such as Rep. Joaquin Castro, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
He called the court ruling “outrageous” and said it will lead to “an incomplete and inaccurate count.”
“The distribution of political representation and the allocation of federal resources is determined by the Census — and sabotaging it is a desperate, last-ditch effort by President Trump and Republican politicians to undermine our democracy and entrench their power,” Mr. Castro said.
While 99.9% of households have responded to the census, it’s not uniform.
According to Census Bureau figures, Louisiana is the chief holdout, with a response rate of 98.3%. Mississippi is next at 99.4% and South Dakota third with a 99.8% rate. The rest of the states showed a 99.9% rate.
It wasn’t just activist groups that called on people to register with the census.
Hansi Lo Wang, an NPR correspondent covering the census, took to Twitter Wednesday morning to do his own urging.
“In less than 36 hours, these Census Bureau phone lines will stop collecting [census] responses in these languages because the Trump administration is shutting them down,” he wrote, sharing phone numbers for speakers of two Chinese dialects, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic and Tagalog.
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