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Reno vice mayor, Devon Reese speaks at Washoe County’s census kick-off event aimed at educating residents about the census on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 at the Downtown Reno Public Library. (David Calvert/Nevada Independent)

A federal judge has extended the counting deadline for the U.S. census for a month, but Nevada officials have said an extension may not be enough to make up for a lack of resources.

Census takers in every state will now have through Oct. 31 to complete counting. The Census Bureau first announced an Oct. 31 deadline in April, but last month it was shortened to Sept. 30. The judge’s decision came Thursday night, six days ahead of that September deadline. 

Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court in Northern California first suspended the wind-down of census operations in the state earlier this month as a part of a suit filed by multiple advocacy groups and local governments and which argued that the Sept. 30 deadline would cause an inaccurate count. Koh found that historically underrepresented groups, including immigrants and people of color, would be the most undercounted if the deadline was not extended, an observation that has been made by Nevada state officials as well.

Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall, the chair of the Nevada Complete Count Committee, previously said that census operations have been slowing in Nevada; the state had only 12 census takers as of last week. When asked about the possibility of an extension on Sunday, Marshall stated that even given more time, Nevada would still have to ramp up operations in order to meet response rate goals.

“They have been stopping, right? They have been withdrawing resources. Our main contact for the Census Bureau has already been thanked for his service,” she said. “So they’ve already been winding down, which makes it that much more difficult.”

Marshall did not immediately return a request for comment on Friday about the implications of the extension.

Nevada’s current response rate is 66 percent, slightly below the national rate which is 66.3 percent. Although Nevada’s response rate statewide is higher than its 2010 rate, rural counties have been struggling. Both Clark and Washoe have exceeded their 2010 rates, but 10 of the state’s 17 counties have not been able to hit those marks set 10 years ago.

The Justice Department appealed the extension decision Friday afternoon, filing a notice with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Although a bill has been introduced in Congress that  includes deadline extensions, no official extension to the Dec. 31 reporting deadline has been passed. The department has pitched the September counting deadline as a way for the Census Bureau to meet that December date.

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