Ohio’s Attempt to Rush Census Data Delivery Undermines Fair Representation
DAYTON, OH—Over the weekend, the League of Women Voters of the United States filed a friend of the court brief in Ohio v. Coggins, a suit brought by the state of Ohio and Ohio’s secretary of state to rush the delivery of census data for congressional district apportionment. The suit asks the court to force the Census Bureau to deliver the Ohio data on March 31, far ahead of its planned delivery date in September of this year. The amicus brief opposes this request and argues that it directly conflicts with a stipulated order issued by a California federal court earlier this year.
“So much depends on the full and accurate data compiled by the Census Bureau. It is crucial to allow the Bureau to get this data right before delivering it to the states,” said Virginia Kase, CEO of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “Census data forms the basis of congressional maps for the next ten years, and that directly impacts whether or not communities have accurate representation in their government and access to important public resources. We can’t afford to get this wrong. Ohio’s attempt to rush data delivery directly undermines our representative democracy.”
Last August, the League of Women Voters and partner organizations filed a lawsuit, National Urban League v. Ross, to protect the census counting and data delivery timelines. While the US Supreme Court ruled in Ross that the counting timeline should end two weeks earlier than the Bureau planned, the Bureau later agreed in district court to a binding order that it would not report the results of the 2020 Census before April 16, 2021. The Bureau subsequently announced that it would deliver redistricting data to states on September 30, 2021, due to “COVID-19-related delays.”
The League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWVOH), along with partner organizations, have met with Secretary of State LaRose over the past few months, advocating for the state to wait for full, accurate census data. As part of the People Powered Fair Maps project, LWVOH is championing efforts to establish fair redistricting practices in the state, for which accurate apportionment data is crucial.
The League of Women Voters is joined in this amicus by National Urban League, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Harris County, Texas, King County, Washington, City of Los Angeles, California, City of Salinas, California, City of San Jose, California, NAACP, the Navajo Nation, Gila River Indian Community, the Country of Los Angeles, and individual plaintiffs Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia. The groups and individuals are represented by Latham Watkins, LLP and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
“Dismantling systemic racial inequities requires accurately counting communities of color that have been historically unrepresented in the Census,” said Damon Hewitt, acting president and executive director with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “A complete and accurate count is what is required – no more, no less. Any effort to rush the process in a way that would curtail the count hurts us all.”
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The League joined coalition partners in urging the U.S. Senate to extend statutory reporting deadlines for apportionment and redistricting data, to give the U.S. Census Bureau sufficient time to thoroughly implement complex data processing activities and complete the most accurate 2020 Census possible.