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Civil Rights and Affirmative Action


Supreme Court Limits Civil Rights Lawsuits Against States

In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court on April 24 ruled that state action may not be challenged based on their "disparate impact" on minorities. The ruling came in a case brought against the state of Alabama because it only offers drivers license exams in English, a policy that disparately impacts non-English-speaking minorities.

Civil rights attorneys argued that clear proof of discrimination is often difficult to find, even when the results of that discrimination are evident. They argued that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination by federally funded state agencies, provides the basis for disparate impact lawsuits against such agencies, including the administrators of Alabama's state drivers license exams. The majority ruled against that position. (4/24/01)


Census Bureau Declines to Adjust Official Count

Career officials at the Census Bureau on March 1 decided against adjusting the official 2000 head count based on a concurrent survey indicating that it had missed roughly 3 million people, a disproportionate number of whom were minorities.

The decision was made by a panel of a dozen census officials, who concluded that the survey's results were unreliable. The official count indicated that there were 281 million people in the United States in 2000. The accompanying survey indicated that there were 284 million, and that the official count had missed 2.17 percent of African Americans, 2.85 percent of Hispanics, and between 3-5 percent of native Americans, compared to just 0.67 percent of whites.

The census figures are used to apportion congressional seats among states and to draw legislative boundaries within them. Democrats often argue that the official count misses minorities, who are under represented as a result. The census figures are also factored into formulas distributing federal funds to states for a variety of social programs. The Census Bureau panel left open the possibility of adjusting the official figures for that purpose. (3/1/01)

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