Census count is ending early. What that means for California and other states with many immigrants

The Census ends in the early hours of Friday morning — midnight Hawaii time. The Supreme Court earlier this week allowed the Trump administration to cut the Census count short by about two weeks. The justices gave no explanation for the decision. Justice Sonya Sotomayor dissented.

It’s a big win for the Trump administration. It argued the deadline needed to be moved up to give Census officials enough time to process the data before the end of the year.

New York Times magazine writer Emily Bazelon says that time makes a huge difference for representation for the next 10 years.

“It’s clear that President Trump wants the Census results … by the end of the year so he can issue the numbers for apportionment, for redistricting, before the end of his first term,” she says.

But it’s bad news for civil rights groups and big diverse states like California, who were pushing for more time to make sure everyone was counted.

“If you take the numbers as is, you take the flaws that’s in the count. And I suspect it’s going to be much worse now in 2020 than 2010. You’re significantly shifting political power,” says Paul Ong, Director of UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge. “But it’s also more than that. We use these numbers for economic purposes … and it has long-term implications in terms of who gets what and who gets left out.”

Ong says miscounting how many people live in each neighborhood will affect everything from bus routes to allocating the next housing project to particular communities.

Bazelon says even though the Census ends soon, challenges over the decision are far from over. “The Constitution says that we have to have a Census every 10 years. It doesn’t say we couldn’t do another Census. It is also true in the 1920s, Congress refused to reapportion until 1929 because they didn’t like the Census results. … That does create some kind of precedent for Congress just saying, ‘No, this is not how apportionment is supposed to happen.’”



  • Emily Bazelon - Staff writer, New York Times; co-host, Slate Political Gabfest podcast - @EmilyBazelon
  • Paul Ong - Director of UCLA’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge and a former advisor for the U.S. Census Bureau