Skip to main content

Civil Rights Groups, Civic Organizations, and Local Governments Sue to Protect the Census Timeline

SAN JOSE—Today, the League of Women Voters of the United States, the National Urban League, Black Alliance for Immigration, Harris County, TX, and the City of Los Angeles, California, City of Salinas, California, City of San Jose, California, and Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia of the Harris County Commissioners Court filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s unconstitutional decision to sacrifice the accuracy of the 2020 Census by abruptly and inexplicably rushing the decennial enumeration to a close amid a national public health emergency.  

“The government’s forcing the Census timeline back to September 30 fails to consider the indisputable impact COVID-19 had on this important process and is another attempt to obstruct full enumeration of America’s people,” said Dr. Deborah Turner, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “States and municipalities rely on an accurate Census count to ensure adequate funding of basic necessities for all Americans: critical infrastructure, schools, hospitals, social services. COVID presents a severe disruption to this vital counting process, and our government should be prioritizing plans that allow the Census Bureau to finish their work, not making last-minute changes designed to inhibit the process.” 

Due to the pandemic, the Census requested additional time to complete counting until October 31 of this year, but the new timeline moves that end date up to September 30.  

“An accurately counted Census forms the basis for a healthy democracy—that’s why it is mandated in our Constitution,” said Celina Stewart, senior director of advocacy and litigation for the League of Women Voters of the United States. “Census data is central to the redistricting process, which states will begin carrying out in 2021. Without an accurate Census count, our Congressional and state legislative districts will not be truly representative. The government’s decision to sabotage an accurate count puts our democracy in jeopardy.” 

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the country this spring, the Census Bureau introduced a contingency plan that accounted both for the difficulties of census-taking during a pandemic and the Bureau’s constitutional and statutory obligation to achieve a fair and accurate count. But, on August 3, the Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau suddenly and mysteriously reversed the Bureau’s contingency plan in favor of a new one. 

The plaintiffs are represented by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Latham & Watkins, LLP, the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney, the Office of the Salinas City Attorney, and Public Counsel. 

“The Trump administration's order shortening the time to complete the Census from October 31 to September 30th is yet another of this administration’s rogue and racist decisions intended to deprive Black communities of resources and execute a redistricting scheme that supports and perpetuates white supremacy,” said Nana Gyamfi, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration “The extension was granted in recognition of COVID-19 and its impact on outreach and capacity to get an accurate count. This manipulative order to shorten the time will result in a significant undercount of Black folks, including Black immigrants. We will continue to make sure our community members are counted in the census even as we oppose this latest attack by this administration.” 

“We’re suing to block the Trump Administration from unconstitutionally abandoning a plan to obtain an accurate census in the midst of a devastating pandemic,” said Mike Feuer, Los Angeles City Attorney, Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney “From political representation to crucial public funding, every L.A. resident has so much riding on a full, fair, and complete count.  The administration’s abrupt, inexplicable, and unlawful reversal would harm Angelenos for the next decade.  It must not stand.” 

“The Trump administration’s snap decision to rush the 2020 Census to a close in the face of a worsening pandemic and in violation of the Bureau’s own expert judgment is both unjustified and unjustifiable,” said Thomas Wolf, Senior Counsel and Spitzer Fellow, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. “The decision runs counter to common sense and constitutional law, discarding the Census Bureau’s duty to ensure a full, fair, accurate, and non-discriminatory count for absolutely no reason. The solution to this problem is simple: Give the 2020 Census the time that the Bureau has already said it needs to count everyone fully and fairly, not the rush job that the Trump Administration suddenly seems to want.”  

“This administration knows well that its 11th hour decision to terminate census operations early will likely lead to an undercount of African Americans, immigrants and other people of color who have historically been left behind in prior Census counts,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “At every turn, this administration has undertaken action intended to obstruct the 2020 Census by excluding or depressing participation among communities of color. Shortening the counting timeframe in the middle of the census, against the advice of career officials and experts, and without a clear plan for moving forward, defies logic and reason. This lawsuit seeks to stop obviously destructive actions that can only result in incomplete data and an undercount, especially in Black and other communities of color.” 

“The Census Bureau itself recognized that more time was needed to conduct the census due to the current pandemic, and carefully adopted a detailed timeline to ensure an accurate count” said Sadik Huseny, Partner, Latham & Watkins. “The sudden decision to cut short that timeline threatens vital government functions that rely on accurate census data, from Congressional apportionment to the equitable distribution of federal funds supporting basic needs such as food, health care, and education, and is contrary to the Constitution and to basic principles of administrative law.”   

National Urban League v. Ross was filed in US District Court in the Northern District of California. Self-response to the Census remains open at My2020Census.gov

Read the complaint here.

### 

CONTACT: Kayla Vix | 202-809-9668 | [email protected]