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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.


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