Judge rejects administration plan to end U.S. census count early

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge has ordered the administration to continue counting for the 2020 U.S. census until the end of October rather than end it as it had planned on Monday.

In a ruling late on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of California called Census Bureau messages sent out late last month announcing that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had announced Oct. 5 as the target date to end the count an "egregious violation" of an earlier order she made.

Koh ordered that the bureau send a new text message to all Census Bureau employees on Friday stating that data collection operations would continue until the end of the month.

She also ordered Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham to file a declaration by Monday "that unequivocally confirms ... compliance with the Injunction Order."The administration of President Donald , who is bidding for re-election on Nov. 3, said in August it planned to shorten the census timeline by a month.

It was sued by municipalities and civil rights groups, which argued the "rushed" schedule would lead to inaccurate census results and "a massive undercount of the country's communities of color."

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.

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Koh issued a preliminary injunction last month barring the administration from winding down the count by Sept. 30.

The Census Bureau, which is under the Commerce Department, counts all Americans every 10 years. It had suspended field collection in March because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Grant McCool)

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