The announcement, in a social media post from the Census Bureau, said October 5 is the “target date” to end the acceptance of individual census responses and the nationwide effort to knock on the doors of households that have not responded.
The announcement came as Judge Lucy Koh, who last week had issued a preliminary injunction reinstating the October 31 date, began a conference in the case. The Trump administration has also appealed her order to a higher court.
Koh inquired about unverified claims submitted to the court that the Census Bureau has not properly carried out her orders.
An attorney for the National Urban League and other groups suing the administration highlighted Ross’ announcement.
“That’s a very current development. We don’t understand what it means or what the specifics are,” said Sadik Huseny, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
August Flentje, the special counsel to the assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, said announcement “reflects the most current planning” and that the government could answer further questions about the decision in the coming days.
Koh said she would consider ordering the government to produce documents explaining how Ross had reached that decision.
Earlier on Monday, government attorneys told the court the Census Bureau was working out how to instruct its field supervisors to proceed under the October 31 deadline.
“Defendants remain in the process of determining what, if any, additional operational guidance may be provided to field offices” following the court’s order, the government said in a court filing.
But last month, Ross abruptly announced changes to the updated plan, shortening the counting deadline to September 30 and setting December 31 as the deadline for reporting totals to the President.
“It is ludicrous to think we can complete 100% of the nation’s data collection earlier than 10/31 and any thinking person who would believe we can deliver apportionment by 12/31 has either a mental deficiency or a political motivation,” wrote Tim Olson, who oversees the massive operation that sends employees door-to-door at households that have not responded to the survey.
The Trump administration’s drive to compile citizenship data and use it to the benefit of Republicans is unprecedented, according to experts, and comes on top of significant challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
And the politicization of the normally bureaucratic and data-focused mission, critics of the administration say, threatens the production of a complete and accurate count.
This story has been updated with additional background information and context.
Daniel Allman, Alta Spells and Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.