Democracy Counts Newsletter, June 2019
Special Edition: Citizenship Question Decision Day
VICTORY!! SCOTUS Rejects Census Citizenship Question
There is some good news from the Supreme Court today — the court has suspended the Trump administration’s ability to add a question on citizenship status to the 2020 Census. Sending the case back to a lower court, the court rejected the Commerce Department’s rationale for adding the question — calling it a “distraction” rather than an explanation.
But even though the Court has dealt a setback to the Trump administration’s efforts, we must remain vigilant.
In a section of the opinion joined by four other justices, the court’s Roberts wrote that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s explanation for adding the question was “contrived.”
Attempts to add the citizenship question to the Census were part of a years-long GOP plan conducted in stealth until it was exposed via documents obtained by Common Cause last month. As reported in the New York Times, their plot was to rig our democracy and give a permanent structural electoral advantage to “Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.”
The fight for a fair and accurate Census is NOT over! Even with this hold on the citizenship question, there are still a number of challenges facing Census 2020. Including enumerator recruitment, 2020 being the first high-tech census, and securing adequate funding for census outreach at the federal and state, and local levels.
Citizenship data can still possibly be used in redistricting
Even if the citizenship question is NOT on the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau has indicated that it’s willing to share block-level citizenship data from administrative sources like the Department of Homeland Security for the purpose of redistricting.
In doing so, politicians who want to manipulate district maps for partisan gain will have data at their fingertips to do so even more skillfully — by excluding people living in the U.S. who are not U.S. citizens.
This proposal would be a major blow to our voting rights and representation in government. Allowing unreliable, highly-targeted citizenship data to play a role in redistricting would boost the number of representatives that less diverse, rural communities receive while diminishing the representation of urban, immigrant-friendly areas of equal population.
Less political power means less access to important educational, health, and public safety services that our communities need to thrive.
Lawmakers in Texas, Arizona, Missouri and Nebraska have already said that they would consider making use of the citizenship data for redistricting purposes if it became available.
- CNBC: Supreme Court effectively blocks census citizenship question for now in a blow to Trump administration
- Washington Post: Supreme Court puts census citizenship question on hold
- New York Times: Supreme Court Leaves Census Question on Citizenship in Doubt
- Roll Call: Supreme Court deals blow to census citizenship question
- List of Decision Day events happening across the country
- NALEO Decision Day Toolkit — English
- NALEO Decision Day Toolkit — Spanish
- The Hofeller Files
- Brennan Center for Justice Confidentiality Backgrounder
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