MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday allowed a coalition of 15 states and several major cities to oppose Alabama's fight to count only citizens and legal residents in U.S. Census numbers used for apportioning congressional seats.
U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor granted the coalition's motions to intervene as defendants in the lawsuit filed by Alabama against the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Commerce. The coalition, that includes New York, California, Virginia, the District of Columbia and others, will defend the longstanding practice of counting all U.S. residents.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said they are intervening because the lawsuit deserves a "robust defense" and questioned the Trump administration's commitment to providing it. President Donald Trump had pushed to add a citizenship question to the Census.
"We will continue to fight to ensure that every person residing in this country is counted — just as the framers intended. Despite the Trump Administration's attempts to tip the balance of power in the nation and Alabama's endeavor to continue down that path, we will never stop fighting for a full and accurate count," James said in a Friday statement after the judge first indicated he would let the states and cities join the suit.
Mike Lewis, a spokesman for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the state opposed letting the others join the suit "on the grounds that their interests would be adequately represented by the parties who are already in the case and who are opposing Alabama's position."
Marshall and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Huntsville filed the 2018 lawsuit that says the practice of counting everyone unfairly shifts political power and electoral votes from "states with low numbers of illegal aliens to states with high numbers of illegal aliens." Alabama has said it is in danger of losing a congressional vote.
The U.S. Constitution says there should be "actual enumeration" of the population counting "the whole number of persons in each State."
The intervening states say that language is clear.
Alabama argues that was supposed to be limited to people lawfully admitted to the body politic.
In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against two Texas residents who argued their votes were diluted by the practice of using the whole population to draw legislative district lines.
"As the Framers of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment comprehended, representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible or registered to vote," the court ruled.