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County of Santa Clara Files Request for Information on Possible Census Citizenship Question and Privacy Concerns


SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Today, the County of Santa Clara’s Office of the County Counsel filed a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for information regarding the U.S. Census Bureau’s possible inclusion of a question regarding citizenship on the 2020 Census. The request also seeks information on how the Bureau plans to protect the privacy of individuals who respond to the census. 

“It’s our responsibility as a County to educate residents about the census. Everyone has a right to be counted so we can be fairly represented in Congress and receive federal funding for housing and transportation projects,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. “Our residents have legitimate fears about whether the census will include a question about citizenship, and how their privacy will be protected.” 

Recently, the federal government has suggested that it may include a question asking about responders’ citizenship on the 2020 census. Experts have emphasized the potential dampening effect of such a question on census response rates in diverse communities like Santa Clara County. In addition, concerns about whether data collected by the Federal Census Bureau will remain private are also expected to negatively affect participation in the census. As a result, there are serious questions about whether the federal government will fulfill its constitutional duty to provide an accurate count.

The County intends to use the requested information to provide accurate information to residents about these important issues, and take steps to ensure an accurate and fair count. 

 “The Constitution requires that the decennial census be conducted in a manner that yields an accurate count of all people in the United States. Because the census is critical to setting political representation at all levels of government, an accurate census is the bedrock of fair political representation,” said County Counsel James R. Williams. “The Census Bureau must provide information on the steps that it will take to ensure that every person is counted fairly and response rates are not suppressed.”

The U.S. Constitution requires the federal government to conduct the decennial census, next slated for 2020, which must provide an accurate count of every person in the United States. The census is critical to county residents’ political representation; it is the basis for allocation of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and for how district lines are drawn. Census data also sets the baseline for the distribution of federal funds to the County and communities nationwide for health care, education, housing, roadways, and other critical services and resources.

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About the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office

The County Counsel serves as legal counsel to the County, its Board of Supervisors and elected officials, every County department and agency, and the County’s boards and commissions. With a staff of 170 employees, including 85 attorneys, the Office of the County Counsel is also responsible for all civil litigation involving the County and its officers. Through its Social Justice and Impact Litigation Section, the Office litigates high-impact cases, drafts innovative local ordinances, and develops policies and programs to advance social and economic justice.

About the County of Santa Clara, California

The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multi-cultural population of 1.9 million residents. With a $6.5 billion annual budget, dozens of offices/departments, and over 18,000 employees, the County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many others, particularly for those in the greatest need. The County is the most populous in Northern California.

Census FIOA request

FOIA press release


Media ContactMaría Leticia Gómez​​/Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119.

Posted: February 16, 2018​

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Last updated: 2/16/2018 12:07 PM