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

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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