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Judge Pushes Wilbur Ross and Commerce to Follow Orders on Census

Judge Pushes Wilbur Ross and Commerce to Follow Orders on Census
(Dreamstime)

Friday, 02 October 2020 09:19 PM

A federal judge appears to have finally bent Wilbur Ross to her will after ruling the Commerce Department repeatedly violated her order to keep the census count going until the end of the month.

Late Friday, at Koh’s order, a Census official sent a text to all field staff charged with counting the U.S. population to continue operations through Oct. 31. Ross had earlier announced on Twitter that census collection data would end Oct. 5.

“Employees should continue to work diligently and enumerate as many people as possible,” was the Friday message from the census official.

The seemingly simple direction came only after a week of Koh wrestling with the Commerce Department over civil rights groups’ claims that the Census Bureau, at Ross’s behest, arbitrarily condensed data-collection with the aim of undercounting minorities.

Koh agreed Ross’s “Replan” would result in reduced federal and state funding as well as Congressional representation for the areas minorities live in. On Sept. 24, she blocked the Commerce Department from moving its deadline for data collection from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30, and for reporting to the president from April 30, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2020.

But throughout the week, Koh was flooded with emails from Census field workers complaining about supervisors, in a clear violation of her order, telling them to wrap up their work early. The final straw came Monday, when just as Koh started a hearing, Ross tweeted an Oct. 5 end to census data collection.

In a late Thursday “clarification,” Koh called the tweet “the most egregious violation” of her Sept. 24 order. She ordered that the text message be sent and reiterated the threat of sanctions and a finding of contempt of court.

The Commerce Department has been “lurching from one hasty, unexplained plan to the next,” Koh wrote. “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,” she said.

It’s not completely clear if Ross and the Commerce Department are in the clear. On Friday afternoon, after her clarification and before the department’s text message was sent, yet another field worker wrote to say he’d been ordered by a supervisor “to get rid of” his cases counting people in Colorado.

She gave the Commerce Department until 8 p.m. Pacific time to explain the latest email. The department is likely to argue the complaint was a straggler, sent hours before the text complying with Koh’s order. For good measure, the Census Bureau attached Koh’s decision to its text messages to field officers.

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A federal judge appears to have finally bent Wilbur Ross to her will after ruling the Commerce Department repeatedly violated her order to keep the census count going until the end of the month. Late Friday, at Koh's order, a Census official sent a text to all field staff...
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2020-19-02
Friday, 02 October 2020 09:19 PM
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