The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Trump administration to cut short the 2020 census count, The New York Times reports.
The court issued an unsigned order allowing the Commerce Department to halt the count as lower courts review challenges to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s order to shorten the timeline of the count.
The order will effectively allow the administration to stop counting since it would be difficult to restart the count if lower courts rule against the administration, according to The Times.
“Its early end could mean that White House officials, rather than Census Bureau experts, may use the population numbers to determine representation in the House of Representatives and in state and local governments,” The Times reported.
The Constitution requires that all people living in the country be counted but Trump has pushed to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count, which would be a boost to Republican representation.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued the lone dissenting opinion in the case.
She accused the administration of trying to “downplay [the] risk by asserting that over 99 percent of households in 49 States are already accounted for,” when the reality is that “even a fraction of a percent of the Nation’s 140 million households amounts to hundreds of thousands of people left uncounted.”
“And significantly,” she wrote, “the percentage of nonresponses is likely much higher among marginalized populations and in hard-to-count areas, such as rural and tribal lands.”
Those groups, she said, “will disproportionately bear the burden of any inaccuracies.”
The harm is “irreparable,” she warned. “And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years.”
Critics say undercount will be devastating:
“The court’s action will cause irreversible damage to efforts to achieve a fair and accurate census,” Kristen Clarke, the president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which sued over the Census order, told the Times. “It’s incredibly disappointing.”
Longtime Census expert Terri Ann Lowenthal warned that the administration’s move “inevitably will undermine whatever public confidence remains in the census results.”
The administration “could do the right thing, and allow those operations to wind down in an organized way over the next two weeks, or it could continue to push for rushed results, accuracy and quality be damned,” she said. “The commerce secretary’s next steps will tell us everything we need to know.”