As Judge Halts 2020 Census Wind Down, These Are the States With Lowest Response Rates

As the Trump administration faced orders from a federal judge over the weekend to halt its plans to wind down in-person counting efforts for the 2020 census, at least eight states still had yet to see their response rates reach over 80 percent.

On Saturday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California issued a temporary restraining order, blocking the U.S. Census Bureau from shortening its previously extended deadline for data collection.

'Irreparable harm'

Before the coronavirus outbreak, counting for the 2020 census had been expected to conclude by the end of July.

In the midst of the pandemic, however, the bureau said it would need more time to gather and process data and pushed the deadline back to October 31, with the public support of President Donald Trump.

Despite the president's apparent approval of the extension, in August, the bureau changed course, announcing plans to expedite its efforts to wrap up data collection by September 30, raising alarm from civil rights advocates who warned of the harm insufficient counting could have on vulnerable communities.

Agreeing that inadequate data collection could cause U.S. residents "irreparable harm," Koh said Saturday that too much was at stake to allow the sudden shift.

"Because the decennial census is at issue here, an inaccurate count would not be remedied for another decade, which would affect the distribution of federal and state funding, the deployment of services, and the allocation of local resources for a decade," Koh wrote, according to NPR.

The judge's order is expected to remain in effect until a September 17 court hearing for a request for a court order that would force the Census Bureau to continue its counting efforts until the end of October.

In a statement shared with Newsweek, the Census Bureau said it would be complying with the order.

"The Census Bureau and the Commerce Department are obligated to comply with the Court's Order and are taking immediate steps to do so," the statement read.

Who's getting counted?

As counting efforts continue to get underway, most states have seen more than 80 percent of housing units counted, according to data published online by the Census Bureau.

As of Sunday, Idaho had the highest percentage of housing units counted, with 98.1 percent of households either self-responding (68.8 percent) or participating in a non-response follow-up (29.3 percent.)

In total, 18 states were identified as having response rates higher than 90 percent, including West Virginia, Washington, Kansas, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Wisconsin, Indiana, Connecticut, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Massachusetts, California, Utah, Arkansas and Maryland.

The two states with the lowest response rates, including self-responses and non-response follow-ups, were the southeastern states of Alabama and Georgia.

As of Sunday, Alabama had the lowest response rate, with 77.9 percent of housing units participating, including 62.1 percent who self-responded and 15.9 percent whose responses came through non-response follow-ups.

In Georgia, 78.1 percent of housing units responded, with 60.7 self-responding and 17.4 participating through non-response follow-ups.

Louisiana, South Carolina, New Mexico, Mississippi, Montana and Arizona also had response rates under 80 percent.

Updated (09/08/2020): This article has been updated with a statement from the Census Bureau.

2020 Census
A pamphlet with 2020 census information is included in a box of food to be distributed by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank to people facing economic or food insecurity amid the COVID-19 pandemic on August 6, 2020 in Paramount, California. A federal judge has ordered the Census Bureau to halt its plans to wind down its counting efforts by the end of September. Mario Tama/Getty