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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. This case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Eastern Division).

Last Updated: April 28, 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. This case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Eastern Division). 

Case Background

The state of Alabama, Congressman Robert Aderholt and two Alabama residents are challenging the Census Bureau’s February 12, 2021 announcement that, due to Covid-19 related disruptions to the 2020 Census, the Bureau will be delivering redistricting data to the states by September 30, 2021. The plaintiffs contend 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 are also challenging the Census Bureau’s decision to implement “differential privacy,” a disclosure-avoidance technique designed to protect the private information of census respondents. The plaintiffs contend 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 alleges 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 is asking 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.


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