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Alabama v. United States Department of Commerce

The State of Alabama filed a lawsuit against the Commerce Department and Census Bureau, challenging the Bureau’s policy of including all U.S. residents in the Census count used for apportionment.

Last Updated: May 4, 2021
Published: August 13, 2019

Note: The Bren­nan Center is not a parti­cipant in this case.

Summary

The State of Alabama filed a lawsuit against the Commerce Depart­ment and Census Bureau, chal­len­ging the Bureau’s policy of includ­ing all U.S. resid­ents in the Census count used for appor­tion­ment.

Case Back­ground

The State of Alabama and Congress­man Morris J. Brooks Jr. chal­lenged the Census Bureau’s policy of includ­ing all U.S. resid­ents, regard­less of their citizen­ship status, in the census count totals used for appor­tion­ing congres­sional seats and elect­oral college votes.

The suit argued that includ­ing undoc­u­mented indi­vidu­als in the popu­la­tion count would deprive Alabama of its “right­ful share of polit­ical repres­ent­a­tion,” as well as cause the state to lose a congres­sional seat and an elect­oral vote to a state with a higher number of undoc­u­mented indi­vidu­als. The state conten­ded that count­ing undoc­u­mented indi­vidu­als viol­ates the Consti­tu­tion’s provi­sions govern­ing congres­sional appor­tion­ment and the elect­oral college, as well as the federal govern­ment’s consti­tu­tional duty to conduct an “actual enumer­a­tion” of the popu­la­tion. The suit further argued that the policy of count­ing undoc­u­mented indi­vidu­als is “arbit­rary and capri­cious” and “contrary to law” under the Admin­is­trat­ive Proced­ure Act (APA).

The state asked the court, among other things, to bar the Bureau from pursu­ing a total popu­la­tion count for appor­tion­ing congres­sional seats and elect­oral votes and to declare uncon­sti­tu­tional any appor­tion­ment of seats and votes based on total popu­la­tion.

On Decem­ber 13, 2018 two groups – one consist­ing of the City of San Jose (Cali­for­nia), King County (Wash­ing­ton), and the County of Santa Clara (Cali­for­nia), and the other consist­ing of Chicanos Por La Causa and several indi­vidu­als – were gran­ted permis­sion to inter­vene. 

On June 5, 2019, the court denied the federal govern­ment’s motion to dismiss for lack of juris­dic­tion, allow­ing the Plaintiffs to proceed with their claim that includ­ing undoc­u­mented indi­vidu­als in the popu­la­tion count used for congres­sional appor­tion­ment viol­ates federal law. 

On Septem­ber 9, 2019, two addi­tional groups were gran­ted permis­sion to inter­vene as defend­ants in the case­—one group consist­ing of 15 states, the District of Columbia, 9 cities and counties, and the U.S. Confer­ence of Mayors, and the other group consist­ing of Arling­ton County, Virginia and the City of Atlanta, Geor­gia.

On April 3, 2021, the court dismissed the case without preju­dice. 

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