Attorney General Ellison joins fight against Trump Administration attempts to cut Census short, undercount Minnesotans
Reducing time for follow-up will put one of Minnesota’s congressional seats at risk
September 2, 2020
September 1, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today joined a large coalition of attorneys general, cities, counties, and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors in taking legal action against the Trump Administration’s efforts to cut short a full count of Americans in the 2020 Census. Earlier this month, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it was reducing — by an entire month, from October 31 to September 30 — the time in which self-response questionnaires will be accepted and door-to-door follow-ups by census enumerators will take place. The coalition filed an amicus brief in National Urban League v. Ross in support of the plaintiffs’ request for a nationwide stay or preliminary injunction to halt this “Rush Plan.” The coalition argues that this expedited schedule will hamstring the bureau’s ongoing efforts to conduct the census, which will lead to an undercount of Minnesotans and all Americans.
“Underlying the right to live with dignity and respect is the principle that everybody counts — no exceptions. This means that literally everybody must be counted in the Census, as our constitution requires,” Attorney General Ellison said. “This does not mean just some people should be counted. It does not mean only people the President likes should be counted. It means that everyone should and must be counted. More time, not less, and more resources, not fewer, are needed to count all Minnesotans. I’m supporting this lawsuit to hold the Trump Administration to account for doing that because it’s my job to protect Minnesotans when the Administration abandons them,” Attorney General Ellison concluded.
Reducing the amount of time allowed for follow-up will particularly harm Minnesota. According to the Population Research Bureau, Minnesota is at risk of losing one of its eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Yet while according to the Census Bureau, Minnesota ranks first among all states (plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia) in census self-reporting, it ranks 43rd in people counted through follow-ups. This is a strong indication that more time, not less, is needed to ensure that all Minnesotans are counted. Any undercount of Minnesotans will put the eighth congressional seat even further at risk.
Additionally, an undercount would affect hundreds of billions of dollars of federal funding that depend on the results of the decennial census. At least 18 federal programs distribute financial assistance based in whole or in part upon each state’s relative share of the total U.S. population. Numerous other programs distribute funds based on census data.
In the brief filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the coalition of 23 attorneys general, five cities, four counties, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, argue that amici have a direct stake in this dispute, as the decennial census determines the states’ political representation in Congress, provides critical data for states’ redistricting efforts, and affects hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding to states and localities. An inaccurate census will directly impair those interests, inflicting harms that will persist for the next decade. The administration’s efforts to reduce the time for both self-responses of the questionnaire sent to every household across the country, as well as non-response follow-up operations for those who do not respond, will inevitably harm the accuracy of the population count.
The shorter time period also flies in the face of what the Census Bureau previously said itself was necessary to conduct an accurate count, as it alters the deadline that the bureau had adopted specifically to accommodate the unique difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coalition goes on to argue that the court should not view this “Rush Plan” in a vacuum. The defendants — the U.S. Department of Commerce, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the Census Bureau, and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham — have all repeatedly attempted to manipulate the census in multiple ways under the direction of President Trump. This includes by previously attempting to add a citizenship question to the census and by excluding undocumented immigrants from the population count that will be used for congressional apportionment. The coalition highlights that all these efforts disregard unambiguous constitutional or statutory requirements, consciously deviate from centuries of consistent practice, and fail to deal honestly with the public and the courts.
Joining Attorney General Ellison and New York Attorney General James in filing this amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The attorneys general are joined by the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors and the cities of Phoenix, Arizona; Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Central Falls, Rhode Island. They are also joined by Cameron, El Paso, and Hidalgo Counties, Texas and Howard County, Maryland.