Supreme Court Ruling Brings Chaos and Confusion to the 2020 Census

Contact: Charmaine Riley, [email protected], 202.548.7166

WASHINGTON – Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court granted the Trump administration’s request to halt census counting:

“This ruling adds chaos to a census already disrupted by a pandemic. It undermines the vital work of local officials, librarians, faith leaders, and many others to make sure everyone is counted, especially in historically undercounted communities. The administration is being rewarded for refusing to let Census Bureau experts determine the best schedule for completing the count and reporting results.

“This is not over. The Commerce Secretary and Census Bureau officials have already told courts that they cannot produce acceptably accurate census data by December 31. Congress must act now to end this confusion and ensure sufficient time for data processing and quality assurance in accordance with the Census Bureau’s high standards. Our democracy demands a fair count.”


Accurate 2020 Census data are critical for the prudent, fair allocation of federal resources to states and localities for the next decade, especially to support economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and with emergency preparedness and response in natural disaster zones.

The administration asked Congress in April to extend the statutory deadlines and set a clear path forward by pushing back those deadlines by 120 days each. The bipartisan, bicameral 2020 Census Deadline Extensions Act bills — S. 4571 (Schatz/Murkowski/Sullivan) and H.R. 8250 (Young/Gallego) — would extend the statutory deadlines for apportionment and redistricting by 120 days each and extend the data collection timeline through October 31, 2020.

Administration and Census Bureau staff agree — The Census Bureau cannot produce an accurate or complete count by December 31, 2020:

  • Commerce Department Inspector General:
    • “[T]he accelerated schedule increases the risks to the accuracy of the 2020 Census. This was the consensus view of the senior Bureau officials we interviewed. The accelerated replan increases risks to both phases of the 2020 Census—i.e., data collection and data processing.” (“The Acceleration of the Census Schedule Increases the Risk to a Complete and Accurate 2020 Census,” Final Management Alert No. OIG-20-050-M, September 18, 2020, pg. 8, emphasis added)
    • “Bureau leaders continued to believe that the statutory extension was preferable, and would give the Bureau the best chance to create a high-quality, usable census. A statutory extension would permit the Bureau to adhere, as closely as practicable, to the 2020 Census plan it developed over a decade instead of the replan it developed over a weekend.” (Final Management Alert, pg. 8)
  • Government Accountability Office:
    • “The Bureau acknowledges both delays and the compressed timeframes as a risk to data quality.” (GAO testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, 9/10/20, pg. 9)
    • “[T]he Bureau is behind schedule in completing integration testing of the 12 systems needed to conduct the response processing operation. Specifically, the Bureau did not complete system integration testing by mid- June 2020 as originally planned, and now expects to complete this testing by the beginning of October 2020—approximately 3.5 months later than planned. The Bureau is also concurrently conducting operational testing, which is intended to ensure that all components are ready to conduct the operation, and will need to complete this testing before the response processing operation begins.” (“Recent Decision to Compress Census Timeframes Poses Additional Risks to an Accurate Count,” GAO-20-671R, pg. 16)
  • Howard Hogan, Associate Director for Demographic Programs, U.S. Census Bureau
    • “[T]he compressed schedule for post data collection processing carries a grave risk of a greatly increased differential undercount.” (Sworn expert declaration in LUPE v. Trump, Civil Action No. 8:19-CV-02710-PX, Sept. 1, 2020)
    • “The Census Bureau has been forced into a situation of modification, revision and replanning. …The Census Bureau has not been allowed time to carefully assess and test the programs in this modified and “streamlined” process. The result is a significant chance of a catastrophic failure for Census 2020.” Sworn expert declaration in LUPE v. Trump, Civil Action No. 8:19-CV-02710-PX, Oct. 3, 2020, pg. 14)


About the Census Counts campaign:

The Census Counts campaign, which is housed at The Leadership Conference Education Fund, brings together community-based organizations across a wide spectrum of advocacy: civil rights, immigrant, LGBTQ, disability, infant and child, poverty and homelessness, faith-based, labor, health care, education, youth, and more. Through education, training, organizing, and outreach, these organizers and advocates are working to ensure communities the census has historically missed are counted in the 2020 Census. The campaign has three main action groups:

  • The National Get Out the Count (GOTC) Coalition
  • The State Count Action Network
  • Census Champions: a network of elected officials and library trustees working to ensure a fair and accurate count.

Additional background on the Census Counts campaign can be found HERE.


The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. For more information on The Education Fund, visit