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Supreme Court Blocks Citizenship Question From 2020 Census

The debate over whether the 2020 census would include a question about citizenship has come to an end, at least for now, with the Supreme Court ruling the question unlawful.

Justices Ruth Bader GinsburgStephen BreyerSonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, the liberal members of the court, along with Chief Justice John Roberts ruled in a 5-4 majority.

They found that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s reason for proposing the question lacked sufficient information.

“If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case,” Roberts wrote. “But agencies must pursue their goals reasonably. What was provided here was more of a distraction.”

Ross and other Trump administration officials claimed citizenship date would aid the Justice Department in complying with the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights.

But those who opposed the inclusion of the question said it actually worked against minorities, especially undocumented immigrants since they would be less likely to participate.

When files from Dr. Thomas Hofeller, a GOP political consultant who died last year, were discovered they found that he wrote that using  “citizen voting age” population as the redistricting population base would be “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”

A group of 18 states that sued Ross, as well as some career census Bureau staffers, said adding a citizenship question would that not only would including the question reduce the number of responses from immigrants but would also reduce government funding and political representation.

The question hasn’t been a part of the census since 1950 though in recent years the government has asked a small group of U.S. residents about their status.

According to the New York Times, one government estimated about 6.5 million people would not be counted should the question be included. 

The primary purpose of the census is to determine the number of seats in the House of Representatives each state gets as well as how many votes in the Electoral College and the allocation of $900 billion in federal funds. As a result, courts have found that Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas might each lose seats in the House.

Though this ruling does not mean the question might not eventually find its way into the census, for now, it’s considered a victory against the Trump administration.

“Our democracy withstood this challenge, but make no mistake, many threats continue to lie ahead from the Trump administration and we will not stop fighting. Now, more than ever, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and everyday people need us to stand firm in our fight for justice. After all, everyone counts, and therefore, everyone must be counted,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said, with New York leading the lawsuit that was presented to the Supreme Court.