Court decision cuts short 2020 Census count
News from the Office of the Governor
MONTANA — Governor Steve Bullock and Lt. Governor Mike Cooney released the following statements after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision allowing the U.S. Census Bureau to suspend its 2020 Census counting operations before Oct. 31 until further court action, creating additional uncertainty. Responding to the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19, the U.S. Census Bureau set Oct. 31 as the deadline for the 2020 Census. The bureau later reversed course and cut short the deadline, spurring two months of court battles to extend the count.
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s action to allow the U.S. Census Bureau to end the decennial count early will have lasting and damaging impacts on Montana,” Bullock said. “As Justice Sotomayor recognizes in her dissent, rural and tribal places will be disproportionally impacted. Congress now has within its power to hold the U.S. Census Bureau accountable and require the constitutionally mandated count to continue through October.”
“Throwing the Census further into chaos is a disservice to the people of Montana, particularly Montanans living in rural and tribal communities. Entire communities in Montana have not been fully counted, which puts at risk more than $2 billion in annual federal funds that pay for our roads, schools and hospitals,” Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, the chairman of the Montana Complete Count Committee, said. “An inaccurate count of Montanans means our local legislative and voting districts won’t match our communities, and it means Montana is less likely to regain a second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
On Sept. 24, a U.S. District Court judge ordered the U.S. Census Bureau to continue its 2020 operations through Oct. 31. Last week, a three-judge panel with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Oct. 31 deadline.
Disruptions from COVID-19, continued changes to the U.S. Census Bureau’s counting operations, the size and rural nature of Montana’s landscape and other factors have put Montana behind other states in the decennial count. Currently, Montana’s self-response rate is 60.3 percent, compared to the national average of 66.8 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Editor’s note: according to the United States Census Bureau, the 2020 Census concluded on Oct. 15.