Census Question Appealed to Supreme Court

The legal battle over the Trump Administration's plan to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census is likely coming to a head in the Supreme Court soon.  This week, the administration asked the Supreme Court to take up the issue, after a federal court ruled last week the question should not be on the census. 

The citizenship question hasn't appeared on the census since 1950, but the Trump Administration has argued that it is necessary to protect the voting rights of racial minorities and ensure integrity in elections, since non-citizens are not allowed to vote.  But opponents of the plan argue it will lead to low and inaccurate counts and thus affect allotment of federal resources that are based on census data.  "On a government form like a survey, it does discourage people from filling it out because of their fear that the government will come track them down and deport them," says Houston attorney Chris Tritico.  "So that's why they don't want that citizenship question on there."

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee in March about why the question should be returned to the census form for the first time in decades.  But Tritico believes opponents have a strong argument.  "The census is designed to count the number of people in the United States, it's not designed to cause people to leave the United States or to count people that we can deport," he says.

The Trump Administration is asking the Supreme Court to fast-track the case, with the census only a year off.  If and when the case reaches the high court, all eyes will likely be on Chief Justice John Roberts.  "The chief justice is really going to be the key vote on all of these issues," says Tritico.  "I think everybody else is going to vote along party lines pretty much on these difficult cases, but I think the chief justice is really going to turn into the swing vote."

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