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NAACP files lawsuit against Census Bureau
NAACP files lawsuit against Census Bureau

The NAACP filed a lawsuit [complaint, pdf] Wednesday in the US District Court for the District of Maryland against the US Census Bureau [official websites] and President Donald Trump, arguing that the federal government’s unpreparedness for the 2020 Census is a violation of the Constitution.

According to the complaint, the Bureau faces insufficient staffing, funding and preparation, including the lack of both a permanent director and a deputy director, and limited capacity to fill routine staff vacancies due to a presidential hiring freeze. The Bureau has also canceled two of three “dress rehearsal” field tests.

Because of this lack of preparedness, the 2020 Census will substantially undercount African Americans and other people of color in communities throughout the US, “causing inequalities in political representation and deficiencies in federal funding of those communities,” said an NAACP statement [press release].

The US Constitution requires the federal government conduct an “actual enumeration” of the US population every 10 years. These results inform and produce congressional apportionment and district line drawing, and federal funding.

“Despite this duty,” the complaint states, “the United States has undercounted people of color since the nation’s founding, starting with the decision to treat African American slaves as only three-fifths of a person.”

The NAACP suit seeks to compel the Bureau of the Census, which falls under the Department of Commerce, to prepare for and conduct a full and fair Census in 2020.

The NAACP Connecticut Conference and NAACP Boston Branch also filed suit [complaint, PDF] in October under the Freedom of Information of Act [official website] to compel the Commerce Department to produce documents about preparations for the 2020 Census.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced [text, PDF] Monday that the 2020 census will include a question regarding citizenship status, a measure the Justice Department said will better aid enforcement of the Voting Rights Act [materials]. The California Attorney General Xavier Becerra immediately filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the decision, arguing the question would discourage non-citizens from participating in the census, which would disproportionately affect California over other states.