NAACP sues Commerce amid concerns over census prep, funding

The NAACP has filed a lawsuit against the Commerce Department alleging the agency illegally withheld internal documents regarding the Census Bureau's preparation for the 2020 count.

Shutterstock editorial image (by Gil C): State Census Bureau homepage.
 

The NAACP is suing the Commerce Department, alleging the agency illegally withheld internal documents regarding the Census Bureau's preparation for the 2020 count.

The Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, seeking information the NAACP requested in June, is rooted in concerns that the 2020 Census is on track for an inaccurate count.

Specifically, the NAACP is seeking records pertaining to the bureau's plans to mitigate the risks identified by the Government Accountability Office, which placed the Census on its high-risk list in February after the bureau announced it would cancel its 2017 field tests.

The lawsuit also demands information about the impact of President Donald Trump's hiring freeze on Census staffing, budgetary concerns and the June resignation of its director, a position that Trump still hasn't filled.

The 2020 census will rely on more technology than ever before, but the bureau has cancelled or suspended a series of tests of said technology and programs, including the paring down of the critical 2018 dress rehearsal. The NAACP is worried about the bureau's ability to accurately count all Americans.

Khyla Craine, assistant general counsel at the NAACP, told FCW she's concerned that the cuts, combined with the hiring freeze and proposed budget constraints, could potentially jeopardize the bureau's ability to deploy enumerators and conduct outreach in historically hard-to-reach communities. 

"The NAACP's concerns are that many communities of color lack access to the internet, so it'll be difficult to fill out the census," she said. "If you already have a historic undercounting issue using paper ... we need to know how you're going to reach out to these communities."

Terri Ann Lowenthal, who has provided census oversight as a congressional aide, presidential transition team member and private consultant on decennials dating back to the 1990 count, told FCW that while there have been pre- and post-census lawsuits in the past, "I cannot think of a pre-census lawsuit whose goal was to gain access to planning information that could shed light on how successful the upcoming census will be."

Commerce took the unusual step of commenting on the ongoing lawsuit.

"The 2020 Census will add the availability of response by internet as a convenience for those who wish to use it. It is not a substitute for mail, telephone or door-to-door enumerating," said Secretary Wilbur Ross in an emailed statement, characterizing the lawsuit as "largely without merit."

"In order to increase the public's awareness of the census and its importance, an extensive media campaign will be conducted in both major publications and community media," Ross said. "Census will also be working with community groups to provide accurate information to local communities, encourage greater response rates by community group members and to recruit enumerators who are familiar with the local area."

In August 2016, the bureau awarded a $415 million contract to the marketing firm Young and Rubicam to design a communications program to will promote self-response to limit in-person follow-ups by enumerators.

Given the cost overruns and operational changes since the Census's last operational plan was released in October 2015, Ross has convened a task force to produce an updated full lifecycle cost estimate.

"The Census Bureau is committed to assuring a full, fair, and accurate count, and I pledge to oversee the bureau's efforts to discharge that commitment," Ross said.

NEXT STORY: GPO names CIO

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.