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Court Case

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. This case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Last Updated: December 3, 2019
Published: August 13, 2019

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.

This case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

Case Background

The State of Alabama and Congressman Morris J. Brooks Jr. are challenging 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 argues that including undocumented individuals in the population count will 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 contends 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 argues that the policy of counting undocumented individuals is “arbitrary and capricious” and “contrary to law” under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The state is asking 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.

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