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LA Census Workers Say Thousands Of Angelenos May Be Left Uncounted

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Some local census supervisors are claiming that thousands of L.A. County residents may have been missed by the 2020 Census count.

Two of these census employees emailed their concerns to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California, alleging that census officials may have violated a temporary order filed against the Census Bureau in early September.

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Koh is the judge presiding over a lawsuit by the City of Los Angeles and other plaintiffs against the Trump administration over the government’s recent attempt to end the census a month early. Last week, Koh ordered the census count extended through Oct. 31; the administration, which had shortened the timeline to Sept. 30, has since appealed.

In her email to the court, local census supervisor Melissa Garza, who oversees a team of L.A.-area census takers, wrote that thousands of local households may have been marked as completed without a collected response.

"The U.S. Census disregarded the Court’s order of September 5, 2020 by closing out cases after 1 or 2 days of attempts of enumerators knocking on respondents' doors," she wrote, referring to the earlier order that temporarily blocked the Census Bureau from winding down or changing field operations.

Garza told LAist that based on the case management system for the Pasadena Area Census Office, which incorporates several surrounding communities, she believes an estimated 30,000 cases have been closed due to “max attempts” after only one day of census takers visiting those residents.

“If no one was home, then they closed out the attempt,” Garza said. “Or if somebody had a locked gate, they would close that out, so we wouldn’t go back there again.”

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The U.S. Census Bureau has not responded to a request for comment on these allegations, but Judge Koh has ordered the agency to file a response by Tuesday evening.

Nicholas Hua is another census field supervisor from the Pasadena Area Census Office. Hua claims he asked his manager for permission to reset cases so residents can complete the census, instead of leaving them closed with no response.

"The response I got back is that 'we're no longer allowed to reopen or reset upon pain of death,'" Hua said.

The judge has also asked the Census Bureau to show documentation explaining why census officials distributed a press release and sent out a tweet identifying Oct. 5 as a new target date for completing the count, instead of Oct. 31, as Koh ordered last week.

Following Koh’s recent decision extending the census count, the bureau issued a statement saying it would comply with her order. The appeal challenging Koh’s order is pending.

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What's at stake for Southern California in the 2020 Census? Billions of dollars in federal funding for programs like Medi-Cal, for public education, even disaster planning. Political representation in Sacramento and D.C. A census undercount could cut critical resources in L.A. County, home to the largest hard-to-count population in the nation.

Fill out your census questionnaire online on the 2020 Census website.