Asian Reporter web extra, September 30, 2020
It’s time to respond to the census:
Census takers: We’re being told to finish
early, cut corners
By Mike Schneider
The Associated Press
September 30, 2020
As a federal judge considers whether the Trump administration
violated her order for the 2020 census to continue through
October by setting an October 5 end date, her court has been
flooded with messages from census takers who say they are being
asked to cut corners and finish their work early.
Josh Harkin, a census taker in northern California, said in
an e-mail Tuesday, September 29 to the court that he had been
instructed to finish up by Wednesday, even though his region in
the Santa Rosa area still had 17,000 homes to count.
"Please do something to help us! We really need to go until
the end of October to have a chance at a reasonable count for
our communities," Harkin wrote.
Paul Costa, a census taker in California currently working in
Las Vegas, said in an e-mail to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh on
September 29 that census takers were being pressured to close
cases quickly, "if not at all accurately."
"Many states, including Nevada, has not been properly counted
yet. Especially the Southeastern states ravaged by the recent
hurricanes. We want to be able to do our jobs correctly & as
accurately as possible," Costa wrote.
A San Francisco census taker, whose name was redacted in the
e-mail, was instructed to turn in census equipment on Wednesday
since field operations were ending. The census taker asked the
judge to order the Census Bureau to stop laying off census
takers, also called enumerators, so that the head count will
continue through October as the judge had ordered.
Another census taker, who only was identified as "Mr.
Nettle," reached out to plaintiffs’ attorneys and told them that
census takers were being pressured "to check off as many
households as complete, seemingly to boost numbers everywhere
above 99%, while sacrificing accuracy and completeness,"
according to a court filing.
Last week, Koh issued a preliminary injunction stopping the
census from ending Wednesday and clearing the way for it to
continue through October 31. The judge in San Jose, California,
sided with with civil-rights groups and local governments that
had sued the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce, which
oversees the statistical agency, arguing that minorities and
others in hard-to-count communities would be missed if the
counting ended at the end of September instead of the end of
A three-judge appellate court panel on Thursday rejected a
Trump administration appeal to suspend Koh’s order, saying
"hasty and unexplained changes to the Bureau’s operations ...
risks undermining the Bureau’s mission."
Koh is holding a hearing on Friday to determine whether the
Trump administration violated her order by putting out a
statement that October 5 was a target date for ending the census
or whether it should be held in contempt.
While the court has the authority to find the Trump
administration in contempt, attorneys for the civil-rights
groups and local governments said in a motion Thursday that they
weren’t seeking a contempt finding at this time. Instead, they
said they wanted full compliance with the judge’s order, arguing
the Trump administration had violated it "several times over."
To achieve that, they asked Koh to require the Census Bureau
to file weekly compliance reports, ensure that all field workers
know about the injunction and require any cases to be reopened
if they were closed because of a push to finish the count by
either September 30 or October 5.
The census is used to determine how many congressional seats
each state gets and the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal
The complaints by the census takers echo concerns that other
census takers have made to The Associated Press over the past
James Christy, the Census Bureau’s assistant director for
field operations, said in a declaration to the court on Tuesday
that he had sent in an e-mail to all managers involved with
field operations that they must comply with Koh’s injunction.
"To be clear, no occupied housing units will go ‘uncounted,’"