ACLU of Virginia and Others File Suit Challenging State's Refusal to Use Adjusted Census Data

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
June 30, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Virginia’s refusal to use statistically adjusted census data to draw new election district borders results in discrimination against black voters, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), and the Community Service Society (CSS) of New York.

“The state has a responsibility to its citizens to count them as accurately as possible and to draw election districts based on that count,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “We just want Virginia’s government to live up to its responsibilities.”

Under a new policy, the U.S. Census will be released in two official forms: the actual data from the traditional mailing and door-to-door enumeration, and the statistically adjusted data. Despite overwhelming evidence that racial minorities will be undercounted if the adjusted data is not used, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law this year requiring the use of the traditionally gathered census data for redistricting purposes.

African-American voters George Smith of Brunswick County, David Baugh of the City of Richmond, and Rev. Curtis Harris, Mayor of the City of Hopewell will be represented by lawyers from the three civil rights groups challenging Virginia’s decision.

Most experts agree that the statistically adjusted data will yield a more accurate overall count of the population, especially of minority families, who tend to be disproportionately undercounted when the traditional census-taking method is used.

“The state of Virginia has passed a law precluding even the possibility of using the census data that almost everyone agrees will be the most accurate,” added Willis. “This undermines the principle of one-person, one-vote by virtually assuring us that voting districts will not be the same size, and it practically guarantees an undercount of racial minorities.”

Earlier this year, the Justice Department was sued by the state of Virginia in an effort to force approval of the state’s new redistricting law. Under the Voting Rights Act (1965), Virginia may not implement any law or policy affecting voting patterns without first securing approval from the Justice Department.

The ACLU, the LDF, and the CSS will join the U.S. Department of Justice as defendants in the case.

The Virginia Commonwealth is the second state to come under fire recently for using racially discriminating practices during elections. In May 1999, the ACLU charged Glades County of Florida of using a similar method to elect members to the Glade County Commissioners and the County School Board.

For further information on the ACLU Voting Rights Project or information on majority and minority voting districts, go to

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