A federal judge said the Trump administration violated her order issued last week saying the census must continue through the end of October. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 2 (UPI) -- A federal judge in California has ordered the U.S. Census Bureau to continue its count through Oct. 31 after finding that the agency violated a previous court ruling.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California said in addition to continuing the census count, bureau chief Steven Dillingham must sign a sworn statement by Monday saying he "unequivocally confirms" he complied with the court order.
Koh said the agency accused the Trump administration of "chaotic, dilatory and incomplete compliance" after she issued her initial order last week.
At issue was a tweet the Census Bureau issued saying that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross issued an Oct. 5 "target date" to complete counting efforts. The bureau also sent a text message to employees saying door-to-door efforts would also end that day.
"Defendants' dissemination of erroneous information; lurching from one hasty, unexplained plan to the next; and unlawful sacrifices of completeness and accuracy of the 2020 census are upending the status quo, violating the injunction order, and undermining the credibility of the Census Bureau and the 2020 census," Koh wrote in her Thursday order. "This must stop."
On Sept. 25, Koh said the Trump administration must continue its decennial headcount until Oct. 31 instead of its plan to stop collecting data on Sept. 30.
The counting effort began Jan. 21, but was suspended in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, forcing it to push its deadline from the end of July to Oct. 31.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced in August that it would end all door-knocking efforts and self-response filings for the 2020 census at the end of September in order to accelerate its completion.
Koh's ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought against the Trump administration by a coalition of groups led by the National Urban League in August, arguing the truncated schedule would hurt minorities as an inaccurate count could skew the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives.
In her 78-page ruling, Koh said the Trump administration never explained its decision to fast-track the count by a month and that by doing so there will be inaccuracies in the effort, which goes against the public's interest.
Koh also ruled against the Trump administration's Dec. 31 deadline for the count to be delivered to the White House, leaving the April 2021 deadline intact.
Darryl Coote contributed to this report.