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Trump administration asks U.S. high court to lift order extending census count

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration on Wednesday sought help from the U.S. Supreme Court in its effort to wind down counting for the 2020 U.S. census.

FILE PHOTO: Census 2020 merchandise is seen on an information desk at an event where U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) spoke at a Census Town Hall at the Louis Armstrong Middle School in Queens, New York City, U.S., February 22, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

In an emergency filing, a U.S. Department of Justice lawyer asked the high court to put on hold a lower court ruling that ordered the once-in-a-decade population count to continue until Oct. 31.

The lawyer, Jeff Wall, said the U.S. Census Bureau must end field operations now in order to meet a Dec. 30 deadline set by statute for delivering census results to President Donald Trump.

The lower court ruling, issued on September 24, “disregarded the Bureau’s successful efforts to ensure that the 2020 census will reach levels of accuracy and completeness comparable to other recent censuses while still meeting the deadline,” Wall said.

On Aug. 3, the Census Bureau issued a statement saying it would wind down data collection by Sept. 30, a month earlier than originally scheduled.

Municipalities and civil rights filed a lawsuit seeking to get the later deadline reinstated. They argued the “rushed” schedule would lead to inaccurate census results and “a massive undercount of the country’s communities of color.”

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has repeatedly ruled against the Census Bureau, saying the accelerated schedule would likely produce inaccurate numbers.

The Justice Department, arguing for the Census Bureau, said complaints about the timeline should be raised with Congress, which can extend the statutory deadlines.

“Contrary to what Plaintiffs may think, the Bureau is not free to disregard a statutory deadline in pursuit of some ethereal notion of a better census,” Justice Department lawyers said in a recent court filing.

The census count’s accuracy is critical, as the survey determines how the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures draw voting districts during the next round of redistricting and guides the federal government in allocating $1.5 trillion a year in aid.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Michael Perry