Calling preparations for the 2020 Census “conspicuously deficient,” the NAACP is suing the U.S. Census Bureau, demanding that the agency send more workers into the field and spend more money on encouraging people to participate in the once-a-decade head count.
The civil rights group and Prince George’s County, a majority African-American county in Maryland, filed the lawsuit Jan. 10 in federal court in Maryland. It claims the Census Bureau wasn’t planning to put enough workers in the field and hadn’t opened up a sufficient number of field offices.
The lawsuit also faulted the bureau for conducting limited testing, particularly when, for the first time, it is encouraging most respondents to answer the questionnaire online.
The 2020 census will help determine the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending and how many congressional seats each state gets. It starts for a few residents next week in a remote part of Alaska, but most people won’t be able to begin answering the questionnaire until mid-March.
“These deficiencies will result in a massive and differential undercount of communities of color,” the lawsuit said. “Such a dramatic undercount will especially dilute the votes of racial and ethnic minorities, deprive their communities of critical federal funds, and undervalue their voices and interests in the political arena.”
The Census Bureau didn’t immediately respond to an email for comment on Monday. The bureau plans to hire as many as 500,000 temporary workers, mostly to help knock on the doors of homes where people haven’t yet responded to the census. Although that is less than in 2010, the agency has said it doesn’t need as many workers this year because of technological advances, such as the ability of workers to collect information on their mobile devices.
An earlier version of the lawsuit was first filed in 2018, but it was dismissed by the district court. An appellate court last month ruled some of the claims could be raised again in the amended complaint filed Jan. 10. In previous court papers, the Census Bureau has called the lawsuit “meritless.”