Prince George’s County joined the NAACP in filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Wednesday, citing concerns that a lack of funding for the proposed 2020 census will “substantially undercount” the black population, according to an NAACP news release.
The lawsuit specifically names acting U.S. Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and President Trump as the defendants. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, and alleges that the planned census will cause a decrease in federal funding and inequalities in political representation — both of which are influenced by census counts.
The NAACP Prince George’s County branch is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which includes its president, Bob Ross.
The 2010 census count for Prince George’s County missed 2.3 percent of its population of roughly 860,000 people, making it the largest undercount of any county in Maryland and one of the largest in the nation. It also presented an undercount of 2.1 percent of African-Americans, The Washington Post reported, as well as a 1.5 percent undercount of Hispanic-Americans.
In 2010, 64.5 percent of Prince George’s County residents identified as black or African-American, according to census data. The county had the greatest black population in Maryland, according to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene data.
The plaintiffs allege that the Census Bureau, which is located within the county, is plagued by understaffing, funding issues and a lack of permanent leadership, according to the release. They allege the Census Bureau needs to put more resources into community partnerships and door-to-door canvassing, which encourage communities of color to participate in the census.
“The effects of an inaccurate census will be felt across the country,” the lawsuit reads. “Such a dramatic undercount will especially dilute the votes of racial and ethnic minorities, deprive their communities of critical federal funds, and undervalue their voices and interests in the political arena.”
The county and NAACP seek to ensure that the 2020 count will be “full and fair,” according to the release.
“When the Census Bureau undercounts my community, we lose political power, and fewer of our federal tax dollars end up coming home to fix our roads, run our schools, and fund our federal programs,” Ross said in a statement. “We felt these effects in the aftermath of the 2010 census, and all signs indicate that the 2020 census will be even worse.”
County Executive Rushern Baker, who is running for governor in Maryland, said in a statement that a precise census is integral to the “federal funding, political representation and operations of the county.”
“On behalf of the 900,000 residents of Prince George’s County, I am proud that we are standing and fighting alongside the NAACP to make sure our County gets treated fairly and equally under the law,” Baker said. “A vast majority of the residents of Prince George’s County are members of this nation’s historically disenfranchised populations. We cannot let this continue in 2018, 2020 or any year moving forward.”