Arizona not joining 2020 census lawsuit

Attorney General Mark Brnovich

Courtesy

Attorney General Mark Brnovich

PHOENIX – Arizona's top elected officials, both Republicans, are not going to join the lawsuit filed by Democrat officials in some states challenging the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census, even though it could mean that Arizona won't get its fair share of federal dollars and political representation.

Daniel Scarpinato, press aide to Gov. Doug Ducey, said his boss is opposed to more lawsuits.

"And he supports having accurate statistical information,'' Scarpinato said.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich also has no interest in Arizona becoming one of the 17 states, seven cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors which sued the U.S. Department of Commerce over its plans to question everyone about whether they are citizens.

But Brnovich spokesman Ryan Anderson said that should not be seen as an endorsement of the policy change. He said the issue has become "overly politicized,'' with the litigation led largely by Democrat attorneys general, though the Conference of Mayors represents more than 1,400 cities led by elected officials from both major parties.

And Ryan stressed that Brnovich is not exactly thrilled by the decision by federal officials to add yet another question to what is supposed to be, according to the U.S. Constitution, a simple counting of heads.

"We have broad concerns regarding the collection and use of data by the government that go beyond the current lawsuit,'' Ryan said. And he said Brnovich recognizes the potential financial and political implications of an undercount.

"We certainly want the reported numbers in Arizona to accurately reflect our growing population,'' Ryan said.

But while refusing to rule out his own lawsuit down the road, he said Brnovich believes the best course of action, at least for now, is to raise questions with the Trump administration and Congress about the need for the additional information and whether there might be some way to alter that decision between now and when census counters go out in early 2020.

Scarpinato, however, said Ducey is not convinced it is obvious that there will be an undercount and, even if so, it will affect Arizona's share of federal dollars. Nor does he see any problem with the question itself.

"What's the harm in additional information?'' Scarpinato said.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in New York contends the new question could deter those not in the country legally from responding at all to the decennial count.

What makes that significant is that these counts have significant financial and political implications.

Some forms of federal financial aid are distributed based on population. If a state is undercounted, it won't get its fair share.