Case Summary

On March 10, 2021, the State of Alabama, Alabama’s Attorney General, an Alabama Congressman, and other residents of Alabama filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Census Bureau, and various federal officials, challenging the Defendants’ decision to implement a new differential privacy system to adjust data from the 2020 decennial census. In what the Census Bureau describes as an effort to protect the privacy of census respondents, the data from the 2020 census will include “statistical noise” when it is released, effectively shuffling the population totals and accompanying demographic data for geographic areas smaller than the state level. This means that all other tabulations which states use when redistricting, including how many people live in a given census block, or how many of those people identify as a certain race or ethnicity, will be adjusted by an unspecified degree.

The plaintiffs allege that the defendants’ decision to produce “manipulated” census data to the States for redistricting will result in the delivery of inaccurate data for geographic regions beyond the State's total population in violation of the Census Act, the Due Process Clause of the 5th Amendment, and the Administrative Procedure Act. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that the Census Bureau’s decision to delay the release of census data to the states until September 30, 2021, well beyond the statutory deadline for delivery of March 31, 2021, violates both the Census Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiffs are seeking a judicial declaration that the use of the differential privacy system to adjust census data violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution and a preliminary and permanent injunction barring its implementation. Additionally, they seek a declaration that the Census Bureau’s decision to delay the release of census data beyond the statutory deadline violates federal law and a writ of mandamus ordering the Bureau to release redistricting data to the States by March 31, 2021.

On March 26, 2021, the District Court granted the plaintiffs' request for the appointment of a three-judge court to adjudicate the case. Oral argument on the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction is scheduled to take place on May 3, 2021 in Montgomery, Alabama.

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U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Eastern Division - 3:21-cv-00211