NAACP suing for records on 2020 Census preparation

NAACP suing for records on 2020 Census preparation
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The NAACP announced Thursday it would sue the Commerce Department, claiming it is withholding records about its preparations for the 2020 Census.

The organization says the Commerce Department failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request before the deadline and is suing for immediate access to records.

The NAACP wants to know about the U.S. Census Bureau’s plans for the 2020 Census, including records on hiring practices, digitization and the bureau’s efforts to reach out to “hard-to-count” populations.

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The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for Connecticut, alleges the Census faces “serious obstacles” heading into its 2020 population count.

“These include hiring and personnel gaps, exacerbated by a federal hiring freeze imposed in January 2017; an unprecedented move to digitize the census, with unknown vulnerabilities to cyberattack and disparate impacts on communities with less access to broadband internet services; a lack of senior leadership; and budgetary shortfalls at a time when the Bureau’s funding should be substantially increasing,” the complaint reads.

“The Census Bureau routinely undercounts communities of color, young children, home renters, low-income persons, and rural residents,” NAACP general counsel Bradford M. Berry said in a statement. “But all signs indicate that the 2020 Census will be a particularly egregious failure on this front.”

The former director of the Census Bureau, John Thompson, abruptly resigned earlier this year. Thompson had led the bureau since 2013.

In April, Congress approved $1.4 billion in funding for the Census Bureau for the 2017 fiscal year, about 10 percent less than what the Obama administration had requested, according to The Washington Post.