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Census ruling might have unintended consequences for Illinois

Friday, Sep 25, 2020

* From Gov. Pritzker’s Friday press conference

Before we begin, I want to acknowledge some news that came out this morning. We’ve learned that the courts have ruled against the Trump administration’s unjust attempts to and the census earlier. Here in Illinois, we are working diligently to ensure an accurate and complete count. And we will do so until the very end. And that means until the end of October.

The ruling is here. An appeal is all but certain.

* Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law press release early this morning…

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California last night issued an order blocking the Trump administration’s attempts to rush the 2020 Census to a close while a legal challenge to that plan plays out in the courts. The court’s order preliminarily enjoins the Census Bureau and Secretary of Commerce from using a Sept. 30, 2020 deadline for the completion of data collection and a Dec. 31, 2020 deadline for processing and then reporting the census count to the President. Under the Court’s Order, the census count will continue through Oct. 31, as the Census Bureau had earlier planned, and its data processing will continue under a timeline that allows for a full, fair and accurate overall tabulation and reporting of the total population to the President..

District Judge Lucy H. Koh issued her ruling after a hearing Tuesday afternoon in National Urban League et al. v. Wilbur L. Ross Jr. et al., the lawsuit filed by civil rights groups, civil organizations and tribal and local governments on Aug. 18 to block the administration’s attempt to rush census operations to a close by Sept. 30 and send population numbers for apportionment to the President by Dec. 31. The plaintiffs sought to stop the Trump administration’s plan to force the Census Bureau to shorten the 2020 count against the judgment of the bureau’s own expert staff and in the middle of a pandemic. The court had already issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the administration from shutting down its census operations while the court prepared the ruling it issued today.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are membership and advocacy organizations, counties, cities, federally-recognized Indian tribes and individuals whose communities will be underrepresented in the final census count if the administration succeeds in ending the 2020 Census data collection and processing prematurely. The plaintiffs are the National Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the League of Women Voters, the Navajo Nation, Gila River Indian Community, Harris County in Texas, Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia of the Harris County Commissioners Court, King County in Washington, the city and county of Los Angeles, the cities of San Jose and Salinas (California) and the City of Chicago, Illinois.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, Latham & Watkins, LLP, Public Counsel, Navajo Nation Department of Justice, the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney, the Office of the Salinas City Attorney, Edelson P.C., the Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Holland & Knight LLP.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed new challenges to the decennial census, including massive displacements of people, just as the count was getting underway. It upended all census field operations and undermined outreach to populations that the bureau has long struggled to count, including racial and ethnic minorities, non-English speakers and undocumented persons.

Bureau officials requested an extension of census data collection, processing, and reporting deadlines to accommodate a Covid-19 plan that President Trump publicly supported, and spent multiple months acting on that plan. But on Aug. 3, Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham abruptly announced that the data-collection would stop on Sept. 30, a full month short of the time census officials had previously said was necessary to complete the count.

The lawsuit argues that the Trump administration’s new, accelerated census timeline cuts a crucial four weeks from the actual count and four months from the time for processing and reporting the data used to apportion the U.S. House of Representatives. The abrupt change disregards the bureau’s own plans for dealing with the hardships imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also undermine the quality and accuracy of the census as well as produce a massive undercount of communities of color.

The lawsuit argues that the administration’s attempts to rush the census to a close pose a grave threat to the vital functions that rely on census data, from reapportioning the House of Representatives and redrawing state and local electoral districts to equitably distributing over $1.5 trillion annually in federal funds that support basic needs like education, food and health care.

The lawsuit seeks to have the court declare the decision to scuttle the census COVID-19 plan unlawful because it violates the Administrative Procedure Act as well as the Enumeration Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

The suit asks the court to keep the 2020 Census on the schedule proposed by census officials in April in response to Covid-19. Under that plan, the bureau would complete the census, including door-knocking, by Oct. 31, 2020, and deliver apportionment numbers to the president by April 30, 2021. Redistricting data would be reported to the states by July 31, 2021. [Emphasis added.]

* This is just a stay, but if that July 31st redistricting data reporting timeline holds up, it would not be good for Illinois. From the state constitution

In the year following each Federal decennial census year, the General Assembly by law shall redistrict the Legislative Districts and the Representative Districts.

If no redistricting plan becomes effective by June 30 of that year, a Legislative Redistricting Commission shall be constituted not later than July 10. The Commission shall consist of eight members, no more than four of whom shall be members of the same political party. [Emphasis added.]

Notice, though, that the constitution doesn’t specifically require that the latest census numbers be used for the new map. They might try to use the 2010 census if push comes to shove - at least for the first two years.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - DuPage Saint - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 1:17 pm:

    More work for lawyers. I would say it is implied they have to use new census. And since it also states:
    The Supreme Court shall have original and exclusive
    jurisdiction over actions concerning redistricting the House
    and Senate, which shall be initiated in the name of the
    People of the State by the Attorney General.
    Maybe the Supreme Court could stretch time limit or send it back to legislature after new census
    We really do live in interesting times.

  2. - SouthSide Markie - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 1:35 pm:

    Just curious from a procedural standpoint, how did the City of Chicago’s challenge end up on a California district court instead of the Northern District of Illinois? Anyone know?

  3. - Downstate Illinois - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:03 pm:

    This lawsuit (or at least news release) seems to ignore the existing statutory law that requires the census to report to Congress by the end of the year the number of people who reside in each state. That number is needed so the House of Representatives can determine how many seats will be assigned to each state. The nitty gritty numbers that include demographics down to the census block level is then due in March. States can’t do redistricting until those numbers are released.

    The crap that it’s urban areas falling behind in the count it’s backed up by the numbers being reported. The areas farthest behind (not affected by natural disasters) are rural southern states.

    One of the biggest issues with this census is a decision made earlier in the decade by the previous administration to cut the number of area offices almost in half. The Springfield office covers the southern half of Illinois. For at least the previous 50 years there’s been an office in either Marion or Carbondale. The other major issue is that outreach is controlled by the Chicago regional office, not the area offices, meaning there’s no contact between the operations side of the census and local government officials who might be able to help. The distance of any office means local field supervisors have no real support when it comes to problem areas.

  4. - Roman - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:28 pm:

    == might try to use the 2010 census ==

    Could also use the 2019 Community Survey numbers, which are estimates but are closer to reality than the 2010 numbers. Of course, that would set up some fun political irony: Republicans and the Tribsters arguing those number are illegitimate, despite constantly pointing to Community Survey data as evidence of the “Illinois exodus.”

  5. - Socially DIstant Watcher - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 2:54 pm:

    If for any reason the feds don’t deliver new census data to Illinois in a reasonable time frame for the state to draw new boundaries, the state can certainly use what the feds have delivered, and could include in the law that these maps are good for only one election and will be redrawn again once the feds deliver the decennial data.

    Delay by the feds doesn’t force the state into a coin flip.

  6. - Unconventionalwisdom - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 3:13 pm:

    My son has a part time job as a census taker.

    Surprising to me, how many people do not want to fill out the forms even when the census taker is there to help thsm.

  7. - Just Another Anon - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 3:21 pm:

    Sounds like a mandatory requirement of the Illinois Constitution. I find it odd that Illinois would set itself up for a redistricting crisis in a few years, but as with all things political, why defer a political benefit today, when the only consequence may be a legal and political cluster**** later.

  8. - SAP - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 4:20 pm:

    Use the 2010 data to hold on to that congressional seat for 2 more years? Interesting.

  9. - Rich Miller - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 4:26 pm:

    ===Use the 2010 data to hold on to that congressional seat for 2 more years?===

    You’re unclear on the concept.

    That’s reapportionment. Different animal. Constitutionally mandated.

  10. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Sep 25, 20 @ 4:45 pm:

    Census director in Chicago said agency was ‘pulling out all the stops’ in final weeks of count. Then the number of field workers dropped by 3,000.

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