Watchdogs Raise Alarm on Dangerous Anti-Democracy Referral

PHOENIX — Arizona lawmakers have introduced HCR2058, a dangerous anti-democracy proposal that could go before voters this November. The measure would require the state to conduct a census count entirely separate from the federal census count, risking a loss in federal funding and weakened representation in Congress. The measure just passed through the appropriations committee and will be heard on the Senate floor before being referred to voters.

HCR2058 would require the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, or another state agency, to conduct a census every 10 years to count only U.S. citizens in the state, separate from the federally coordinated census count. The commission would then draw new legislative district lines using only the number of self-declared citizens, rather than the total number of residents living in the district. Participation dropoff caused by this separate count could also result in a loss of federal funding for healthcare, infrastructure, and schools, and could even decrease the state’s representation in Congress. Arizona depends more on federal funds than most states, receiving $29 billion in federal funding, which is also the largest source of funding for the state.

“It would be an insult to our democracy to refer this measure to voters,” said Jenny Guzman, program director of Common Cause Arizona. “Not only would this be a massive waste of taxpayer dollars, this referral takes away all Arizonans’ right to fair and equal representation.”

Should HCR2058 get referred to the ballot, voters would be asked to approve hundreds of millions of dollars for an alternative census, only to run the risk of being undercounted due to the new state census circulating simultaneously with the United States Census. Currently, Arizona relies on hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds to administer the statewide census, whereas HCR2058 proposes a brand-new census that would be funded entirely by Arizona taxpayers. This means that the state of Arizona would have to determine funding for creating and preparing the state census, while also spending millions re-hiring the 57,000 workers that were hired to facilitate U.S. Census participation, all without federal funding.

The census is used to determine far more than just legislative maps — it also helps determine how much money different counties and census block areas can receive to support infrastructure and healthcare needs. The confusion caused by a duplicative state census could disproportionately harm rural counties as they could receive significantly less federal funding as a result of inadequate census information collected. 

“HCR2058 would destroy the avenues we now have to receive federal funding and the programs across the state that benefit from the federal census. We urge the Senate to vote against it,” added Guzman. “The framers of the Constitution and countless Supreme Court decisions have been clear: every person must be counted in our census, regardless of citizenship status. Common Cause Arizona will continue to uphold our democratic ideals and work to ensure that everyone has equal access to fair representation.”