Latino vot­ers aim to chal­lenge suit

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - REGIONAL NEWS -

BIRM­ING­HAM, Ala. — Latino vot­ers and civil-rights groups have asked to join a law­suit to de­fend the prac­tice of in­clud­ing peo­ple in the coun­try il­le­gally in U.S. Cen­sus counts.

The counts are used to con­fig­ure con­gres­sional seats.

Alabama Con­gress­man Mo Brooks sued the Cen­sus Bureau and the U.S. Com­merce Depart­ment in May, ar­gu­ing the pre­dicted 2020 Cen­sus num­bers will cause the state to lose a con­gres­sional seat and an elec­toral vote to a state with a “larger il­le­gal alien pop­u­la­tion.”

It has been a long­stand­ing prac­tice to in­clude all U.S. res­i­dents, in­clud­ing nonci­t­i­zens re­gard­less of immigration sta­tus, in the cen­sus, which also de­ter­mines the num­ber of con­gres­sional seats for each state. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against two Texas res­i­dents who ar­gued their votes were di­luted by the prac­tice of us­ing the “whole pop­u­la­tion” to draw leg­isla­tive dis­trict lines.

Alabama is seek­ing to have the prac­tice de­clared un­con­sti­tu­tional. The state ar­gues it vi­o­lates ex­ist­ing statutes that “require a cen­sus enu­mer­a­tion of the to­tal of legally present res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion.”

The Mex­i­can Amer­i­can Le­gal De­fense and Ed­u­ca­tional Fund filed a mo­tion Thurs­day on be­half of six vot­ers and the group Chi­canos Por La Causa, which are seek­ing to join the case as de­fen­dants.

They say they live in states, in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia, Florida, Texas and Ari­zona, that could lose con­gres­sional seats and fed­eral fund­ing if the count doesn’t in­clude all res­i­dents.

They fear the fed­eral govern­ment will not fight for their in­ter­ests in the case be­cause it has “no spe­cific in­cen­tive to de­fend the use of a par­tic­u­lar pop­u­la­tion base” when it comes to con­fig­ur­ing con­gres­sional seats. In­stead, the mo­tion says, the govern­ment’s stake is lim­ited to de­fend­ing the cri­te­ria and pro­ce­dures used by the Cen­sus Bureau.

The fed­eral govern­ment is charged with “rep­re­sent­ing var­ied pub­lic and ad­min­is­tra­tive in­ter­ests,” the mo­tion says. The vot­ers and civil rights groups are in­ter­ested in pro­tect­ing “their pri­vate in­ter­ests in po­lit­i­cal ac­cess and rep­re­sen­ta­tion” and the ap­por­tion­ment stan­dard in place.

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