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Protecting the Census

A complete Census count is the foundation of a fair democracy. Every person living in the United States must be counted, regardless of citizenship status. Over the next decade, 2020 Census data will be used to reshape Congressional and state legislative districts, allocate billions of dollars in federal funding, including COVID-19 relief, and fuel economic development.

The 2020 Census has faced historic challenges:

  • Inadequate funding

  • A months-long halt in operations due to COVID-19 shutdowns

  • Wildfires in the West and hurricanes along the Gulf Coast that displaced thousands of residents while the count was in process

  • Political interference from the Trump White House to advance an anti-immigrant agenda

 

Legal Action:

Deadline extension
Although the counting is over, the 2020 Federal Census is far from complete. Months of data processing work are necessary to produce accurate reports. Yet the Trump administration has been rushing to complete key portions of the count before its term ends on January 20. The League of Women Voters of the U.S. has joined other advocacy groups in a lawsuit seeking to extend the reporting deadlines. Read a summary of the case here

Exclusion of undocumented residents
In July 2020, the president ordered that undocumented residents be excluded from the apportionment data used to award seats in Congress and electoral votes to the states. This could cost California and Texas a seat in the House of Representatives while favoring states with larger non-Hispanic white populations. 

The League of Women Voters of the U.S. has filed an amicus brief in the lawsuit seeking to block the order.

Lower courts have ruled against the order, but the Trump administration has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on November 30th.  

Read a summary of the case here

 

News:

December 10: House committee issues subpoena for Census documents. 

November 30: The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Trump v. New York.

November 16: Census “anomalies” could thwart Trump’s bid to alter the electoral college.

 

Redistricting:

Maine will use Census data to redraw legislative districts in 2021. Census delays may impact the timetable and create a legal dilemma for the state.

According to Federal law, Census data for state redistricting must be delivered to governors by March 31, 2021. In June 2020, the Census Bureau asked for an additional 120 days to complete its work, to make up for time lost due to the pandemic. If approved by Congress, this delay would move the deadline to July 31, 2021. 

However, in September, the Bureau retracted its request for delays, and announced that it would complete its work according to the original timeline. The League of Women Voters of the U.S. and other advocacy groups are challenging this rushed timeline in court. The upshot is that we don’t know yet when redistricting data will be sent to Governor Mills. 

The Maine constitution requires that the legislature enact a redistricting plan by June 11, 2021. Depending on when Census data is delivered, it may be impossible to complete a plan by the constitutional deadline. The League is closely following developments. 

For more information on Maine’s redistricting process, click here