WINDOW ROCK, Navajo Nation (ABC4 News) – The Navajo Nation joined a lawsuit against the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce based on the what they are referring to as an “illegally expedited plan, the ‘Rush Plan’ for conducting the 2020 Census. The Navajo Nation joined the lawsuit as a plaintiff alongside non-profits, city and county governments, and the Gila River Indian Community.
The plaintiffs contend the federal defendants in the lawsuit illegally curtailed time to complete the 2020 census.
The plaintiffs are concerned that it will cause a significant undercount of minority populations, including members of the Navajo Nation.
Attorney General Doreen N. McPaul announce the Navajo Nation joined the lawsuit on September 1 2020.
According to a press release sent to ABC4 News:
“The lawsuit was first filed on August 18, 2020, shortly after the Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau suddenly and without explanation announced the Rush Plan on August 3, 2020. The Rush Plan threatens to undercount “hard-to-count” populations, which are primarily minority communities, including members of tribal nations. In the years leading up to the 2020 census, the federal government meticulously planned and prepared to ensure a more accurate count for the 2020 census, in part by ensuring ample time was provided to complete the in-person data-collection and subsequent data-processing phases of the census. Plaintiffs assert that the federal government had no sound basis for cutting back deadlines for theses phases with the Rush Plan.”
“The Rush Plan would shorten the time for the Non-Response Follow Up phase of census data- collection. This phase involves census enumerators going door-to-door at residences that have not responded in previous phases. This phase is especially critical in the Navajo Nation. An accurate census count is critical for minority populations, as the count determines the apportionment of federal funds and congressional representation. Navajo Nation government programs rely heavily on census data to ensure adequate funding for infrastructure, social services, and for determining water rights. As of September 1, only 18.4% of households in the Navajo Nation had self-responded to the 2020 census. During the 2010 census, the Navajo Nation had a 29.4% final response rate. The Rush Plan and its curtailment of the Non-Response Follow Up period, threatens to undercount Navajos even more than in the past.”
The plaintiffs say the federal government’s implementation of the Rush Plan is “especially detrimental in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic which has severely impacted the Navajo Nation.