WASHINGTON (March 28, 2018)—Prince George's County officials joined an NAACP lawsuit against the Trump administration on Wednesday, concerned that the upcoming 2020 census may undercount minority citizens.
"The preparation for making sure that the Census takes place appropriately is right now and not in 2020," Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said at a National Press Club press conference with the NAACP. "If we're not preparing today, then we're preparing to fail and that's not an option for this nation, it's certainly not an option for the state of Maryland, and it's not an option for Prince George's County."
Bradford Berry, the general counsel of the NAACP, criticized the administration for embracing the implementation of a digital census without accounting for how it might affect the undercount of minority citizens.
Berry said the NAACP sees undercounts as a threat to democracy, but also said that the administration has not taken the matter seriously.
"The numerous problems and complexities confronting past census-takers are compounded by the current administration's neglect of the Census Bureau and its apparent disregard for whether the 2020 count in communities of color is anything approaching accurate," Berry said. "We therefore concluded that legal action was necessary and appropriate."
Besides the NAACP and Prince George's County, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the county's local branch of the NAACP, the branch's president, Robert Ross, and Elizabeth Johnson, a county resident since 1974.
The suit alleges that the census bureau's plans and preparation for the 2020 Census are insufficient to satisfy constitutional requirements. The plaintiffs are also seeking injunctive relief requiring the government to take the steps necessary to conduct a fair and accurate census.
The defendants in the suit include President Donald Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Census Bureau and its acting director and the government of the United States.
Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP, said an accurate count on the census is important because it provides the necessary resources for municipalities, counties and states to properly function through the allocation of federal funds. He added that an accurate count helps make sure that political boundaries are drawn so representation is fair and equal.
"We know, as the NAACP, that the undercount in African American and Latino communities has been a persistent problem across the country," Johnson said. "In fact, as a result of undercounts in communities, we've seen majority African American governments underfunded substantially because the impact of a census would last for 10 years."
Baker said that his county is one of the hardest hit by undercounting.
According to data displayed at the press conference, Prince George's County had a 2.3 percent undercount rate in the 2010 Census, one of the highest percentages in the nation. Baker said he estimates that Prince George's County has lost around $200 million in federal spending due to undercounting.
Baker also pointed out that undercounting has impacted representation for his county as it relates to the upcoming redrawing of the congressional district.
He said he hopes Prince George's County can help set an example for the changes that need to be made concerning the upcoming census.