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LA City Sues Trump Administration Over Suddenly Shortened Census

A man wearing a facemask walks past a sign encouraging people to complete the 2020 U.S. Census in Los Angeles on Aug. 10, 2020. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
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The city of Los Angeles is suing the Trump administration over its decision to abruptly shorten the essential, in-person phase of the 2020 Census. That's when census workers go door to door in hopes of counting people who haven’t yet responded.

The U.S. Census Bureau had previously extended operations for the decennial count to October 31 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, earlier this month, that deadline was changed to September 30.

“We asked the administration for explanation by letter and received no response at all,” Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said during a news conference Tuesday.

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The legal complaint argues that without any rationale or evidence supporting this change, the decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Several other municipalities and organizations, including the National Urban League, the League of Women Voters, and the cities of San Jose and Salinas have also joined the lawsuit.

L.A. in particular has a lot to lose, Feuer said. Los Angeles County is often considered the hardest-to-count region in the nation because the county has a huge population of renters, immigrants and people without internet access. Since in-person outreach is being shortened, these communities could well be overlooked.

Census enumerators doing in-person work were only deployed in the county starting last week.

“We know that the effect of the ‘rush plan’ will fall particularly hard on communities of color in Los Angeles,” Feuer said.

He added that the city could lose “millions and millions of dollars” and possibly, political representation.

In many historically undercounted census tracts across L.A., only a third of households have responded to the census — with just 43 days left until the count is scheduled to end.

In the city of L.A. as a whole, only slightly more half of all households have responded, far behind the current national response rate of 63.9%.

The city’s lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court of Northern California to force the Census Bureau to return to their previous amended schedule. That would again extend the deadline for self-response to the end of October, and allow more time for data analysis into 2021.


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