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Arizona Won't Join Lawsuit Over 2020 Census Citizenship Question

Arizona's top elected officials 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 Arizona is underrepresented in Congress and in share of federal dollars. 

Attorney General Mark Brnovich 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.

Anderson 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,'' Anderson 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,'' Anderson 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.

Daniel Scarpinato, press aide to Gov. Doug Ducey, 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.

Claire Caulfield was a reporter and Morning Edition producer from 2015 to 2019.