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Federal Judge Tells Trump Administration To Turn Over Records On Decision To End Census Count Early

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A car caravan rolls through Oceanside to drum up support for the 2020 Census. (Caroline Champlin/LAist)
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A federal judge has given the Trump administration until Sunday to turn over documents related to last months's abrupt decision by officials to end the 2020 Census a month earlier than planned.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose is presiding over a lawsuit against the Trump administration brought by civil rights organizations and several city and county governments, among them the City of Los Angeles.

Plaintiffs had asked that the federal government turn over documents that could help explain why the Census Bureau suddenly moved the deadline for the decennial count up by a month, from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30.

Earlier this week, lawyers with the federal Department of Justice said in court that they didn’t have that kind of written record — then later made the argument that documents just shouldn’t be produced, because the Census Bureau’s plan is the political business of Congress and not the court.

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In court documents filed early today, Judge Koh rejected the government's arguments. She ordered that the government turn over documents detailing how and why the census timeline was changed.

Last weekend, Judge Koh temporarily halted the administration's plan to end the census early, issuing a temporary restraining order that prevents the Census Bureau from winding down operations or laying off enumerators early, something that was already happening in Los Angeles.

City leaders have argued that cutting short the census will leave hard-to-reach populations uncounted. Among other things, census data helps determine political representation in Congress and federal funding for social services.

More hearings are set for next week. Oral arguments are scheduled for next Thursday, when Koh will decide whether to extend the temporary restraining order.

What's at stake? The census count determines billions in federal aid and also how political representation is distributed. States, counties and cities that are undercounted will lose out both financially and politically.

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California's self-response rate — meaning people who sent in their form — was at 68% and L.A. County's was at 63.3%. With enumerators, census workers who go door-to-door to follow up with people who did not respond, the state is at 92.6%.

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