Following the Constitution, the United States counts its citizens every 10 years. This data determines how to divide the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives per state. Also, the census data plays a central role in allocating billions of federal dollars in federal programs.
In April, the U.S. Supreme Court held oral argument in the case of Department of Commerce v. New York, Docket No. 18-966. The State of New York challenged the Trump Administration’s decision to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census forms. The Administration justified including the question of citizenship was to obtain information that would assist in the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Opponents of the question argued the question is not supported by data in the record; rather, the inclusion of such a question was primarily to reduce responses from the Hispanic and poorer communities, generally perceived as Democratic Party supporters.
At the oral argument, the Justices appeared divided as to whether the U.S. Census Bureau, an agency within the Department of Commerce, had a sufficient record to warrant inclusion of the citizenship question. The conservative justices pointed to the fact that the citizenship question had been included on the census forms for over 100 years up until 1950 and from approximately 1960 to 200, some households still received forms with the citizenship question. The liberal justices argued the primary justification was for political purposes, i.e. to suppress minorities from responding and thus, undercounting the minorities.
After the oral argument, communications have been discovered that appear to indicate a top Republican redistricting expert, had pushed for adding the citizenship question because it would help the Republicans politically. Currently, numerous pleadings have been filed to include these communications in the record or to have the case remanded to the District Court prior to the Supreme Court rendering a decision.
Stay tuned in because the Supreme Court’s decision in this blockbuster case will have huge political ramifications.
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