STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
A federal court says the United States Census count may go on. The judge blocked a Trump administration effort to stop the counting in the census that determines your congressional representation, federal funding for the place where you live and a lot more. There is a lot of power in those numbers. And the judge gave the Census Bureau until October 31 - a month longer than the administration wanted. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang covers all things census related and is in New York. Hansi, good morning.
HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: What, at least according to the court, did the Trump administration do wrong?
WANG: Well, this was a preliminary finding by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in Northern California. And based on internal documents that the administration was required to release for this lawsuit, the judges found that the challengers here, led by the National Urban League, that they've shown that they're likely to win in this lawsuit in arguing that the administration - this last-minute decision it made in July and announced in August to shorten the census schedule is likely to lead to an undercount of historically undercounted groups, including people of color and immigrants, and that this decision was made in an arbitrary and capricious way, a misuse of the administration's discretion over conducting the census.
INSKEEP: That's an interesting phrase to hear because I'm recalling there are other lawsuits where the administration has been found to be arbitrary and capricious. I'm thinking of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals where the Supreme Court said, yeah, you can change that policy, but you need to give your reasons why and for there to be a process so that it's fair for people to be affected. Apparently the same thing happened here?
WANG: And the same thing is - happened in the lawsuit over - the lawsuits over the now blocked citizenship question that the Trump administration tried to add to the census forms and was blocked by federal courts - permanently blocked by the federal courts because, again, it's a similar issue here - the process that was not followed. There was not a proper process that was followed in making that decision. And that is what the judge here in this case for the census schedule lawsuit is finding here, that it is likely for the challengers will win based on these claims.
INSKEEP: Does it seem probable - and, of course, we don't know exactly what we can forecast will happen over the next month - but seem probable that more people of color, more historically undercounted groups will be more fully counted in these next few weeks when census counters will continue?
WANG: That is what these challengers are hoping. That's why they brought this request to the judge to order the administration to do an extra month of counting, which means that door knockers have to continue to go out and try to knock on doors of unresponsive households that the administration - Census Bureau has to keep on collecting responses online, over the phone and through the mail. So census advocates, community groups, are going to likely try to keep on pushing a message to encourage folks who have not participated yet to participate, to get counted. Because, right now, the response rates, the self-response rates, in many states are lower than a lot of community groups would want. And the Census Bureau still has a lot of work to do in a number of states.
INSKEEP: Is the administration going to appeal?
WANG: The administration is very likely going to appeal this ruling. And so we're going to - I'm going to watch for the next few days to see exactly what happens to this ruling, whether or not October 31 ends up being the last day of counting because Justice Department attorneys have already said earlier this week that they were getting ready to appeal. And it could be to - all the way to the Supreme Court because the days - the time is running out. And the administration wants to end counting by September 30.
INSKEEP: And, of course, at the moment, the Supreme Court has eight justices on the bench, although Republicans in the Senate are moving to confirm President Trump's choice, which we expect tomorrow, to fill that ninth. Hansi, thank you very much.
WANG: You're welcome, Steve.
INSKEEP: NPR's Hansi Lo Wang.
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