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Led by Mayor Durkan and City Attorney Holmes, Seattle Joins Lawsuit to Preserve Fair and Accurate Census

Seattle Part of Coalition of 18 Attorneys General, 6 Cities, Bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors in Lawsuit Filed Today

Seattle (April 3) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes announced that the City of Seattle has joined a coalition of states and cities in a lawsuit to block the Trump administration from demanding citizenship information in the 2020 decennial Census and preserve a fair and accurate count. Seattle joins a coalition of 18 Attorneys General, six cities, and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors to hold the Trump Administration accountable for violating the Enumeration Clause of the United States Constitution.

“Donald Trump and his administration wants to take the Census back to the 1950s with an unreasonable, unjust and unconstitutional proposal. Our state and City are united in fighting against this attempt by the Trump administration to stifle democracy, strip our community of much-needed resources, and undercount communities of color and immigrants, ” said Mayor Durkan. “In the last decade, Seattle’s population has skyrocketed, which is why it’s critical the upcoming Census provides accurate and fair representation. Without an accurate count, Seattle could lose billions of dollars of federal investments in housing, schools, and hospitals, and other critical federal resources.”

The lawsuit, which was filed this morning in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and joined by the Attorneys General of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia; the cities of New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Providence, San Francisco, and Seattle; and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“The City of Seattle is committed to doing everything possible to ensure that we have an accurate and constitutional 2020 Census. I am proud to join other cities and states in this lawsuit to require the federal government to follow the Constitution and count everyone fairly,” said City Attorney Holmes.

“We have a duty to represent all of the more than 700,000 people who live in Seattle, and without accurate data from the 2020 Census we cannot fulfill our responsibilities to adequately protect the health and safety of our community,” said Teresa Mosqueda (Citywide, Pos. 8).  “Seattle must lead the way forward and fight against any attempts to weaken the 2020 Census process, exacerbate distrust with the government, or harm our ability to serve our population’s needs.”

Under the Constitution, the Census Bureau has an obligation to determine “the whole number of persons in each state.” Yet demanding citizenship information in the Census is expected to depress participation among immigrants, causing a population undercount that would disproportionately harm states and cities with large immigrant communities. Non-citizens are counted in the Census for the purposes of federal funds, apportioning of congressional seats and Electoral College votes, and the drawing of state and local districts.

On December 12, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice requested that the Census Bureau demand citizenship information in the 2020 census form sent to every household in the United States, even though the Census is supposed to count all persons—citizens and non-citizens alike. The lawsuit filed today is brought under the Enumeration Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as this action by the Trump administration will impede an “actual Enumeration” required by the Constitution. It is also brought under the Administrative Procedure Act, which permits courts to set aside unlawful or arbitrary and capricious agency decisions. In 2009, all eight former Directors of the Census Bureau dating back to 1979 – who served under both Democratic and Republican presidents – affirmed that a citizenship question would depress participation and lead to a significant undercount, undermining the purpose of the Census itself.

Getting accurate Census counting is critical to Seattle’s budget. In 2015, Washington State received approximately $13.7 billion dollars from federal assistance programs based on decennial Census data.  In terms of annual allocation, that amounts to significant funding per person for housing, education, health care, infrastructure, transportation projects and several other federally funded programs. Additionally, at stake for Seattle is how the base for the state population estimates are used to determine the allocation of about $200 million to counties and cities from the state general fund annually.

Because of the validity of the Census county is so important, Mayor Durkan has met with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, who oversaw the 2010 Census. Mayor Durkan will continue to work with the City Council, community groups, and regional government partners to plan for a grassroots effort to ensure every person is counted in the 2020 Census. Between 2000 and 2014, Seattle’s immigrant population grew 20% compared to 14% for the overall population. In Seattle, 21.3% of the population speak a language other than English at home.  According to the 2014 American Community Survey and Seattle School District, 129 languages are spoken in Seattle schools.