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Alabama v. U.S. Dep’t of Commerce

The State of Alabama filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Commerce Department and the U.S. Census Bureau, challenging the Bureau’s announcement that it will be delivering redistricting data to all states by September 30, 2021.

Last Updated: June 29, 2021
Published: March 15, 2021

Summary

The State of Alabama filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Commerce Depart­ment and the U.S. Census Bureau, chal­len­ging the Bureau’s announce­ment that it will be deliv­er­ing redis­trict­ing data to all states by Septem­ber 30, 2021.

Case Back­ground

The state of Alabama, Congress­man Robert Ader­holt and two Alabama resid­ents chal­lenged the Census Bureau’s Febru­ary 12, 2021 announce­ment that, due to Covid-19 related disrup­tions to the 2020 Census, the Bureau will deliver redis­trict­ing data to the states by Septem­ber 30, 2021. The plaintiffs conten­ded that the delayed release of redis­trict­ing data will prevent Alabama from complet­ing its redis­trict­ing process by the state’s consti­tu­tion­ally prescribed dead­line and jeop­ard­ize the integ­rity of its elec­tions. 

The plaintiffs also chal­lenged the Census Bureau’s decision to imple­ment “differ­en­tial privacy,” a disclos­ure-avoid­ance tech­nique designed to protect the private inform­a­tion of census respond­ents. The plaintiffs conten­ded that the imple­ment­a­tion of differ­en­tial privacy will result in inac­cur­ate data products that are unfit for redis­trict­ing purposes and will cause vote dilu­tion in viol­a­tion of the Fifth Amend­ment. The suit further alleged that the Census Bureau’s decision to imple­ment differ­en­tial privacy and to delay the redis­trict­ing numbers is “arbit­rary and capri­cious,” in viol­a­tion of the Admin­is­trat­ive Proced­ure Act because the Bureau did not adequately consider how differ­en­tial privacy and delayed census data will affect the vari­ous needs of states’ redis­trict­ing processes.

Alabama asked the court to declare that the delay and use of differ­en­tial privacy viol­ate federal law, to bar the Bureau from imple­ment­ing differ­en­tial privacy, and to require the Bureau to release redis­trict­ing data by March 31, 2021, or at the earli­est date the court may find to be equit­able.

On June 29, 2021, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a prelim­in­ary injunc­tion and peti­tion for writ of manda­mus, allow­ing the Census Bureau to continue with its plans to use differ­en­tial privacy and release the redis­trict­ing data by August 16, 2021. 

On Septem­ber 9, 2021, the court dismissed this case without preju­dice.


Key Docu­ments