Latest Update: The President announced that he will not pursue a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
To protect a fair and accurate Census, the decision to not add the citizenship question is important.
However, the president issued an executive order to government agencies to hand over citizenship data — this is an abusive power grab. Attorney General Barr reinforced the Administration’s intent to collect citizenship data for the purposes of reapportionment and redistricting. Using citizenship data will erase millions of people from apportionment and redistricting violates the Constitution.
The Trump administration’s attempt to rig the 2020 Census with an unnecessary question on citizenship status has been officially STOPPED. This is a huge win for our democracy.
Here’s why: The Constitution requires a Census every 10 years, which we use to determine congressional representation. The count includes everyone regardless of citizenship status. But adding a question on citizenship would intimidate many households in immigrant communities and keep them from filling out the 2020 Census form. Six previous Census Bureau directors from both parties, opposed this move, in addition to current Census Bureau staff, and social justice advocates.
If we don’t get an accurate count from communities with high immigrant populations, it means many of us will have less representation in Congress and state houses. That means maneuvers like this to suppress people’s legitimate Census responses will silence many our voices in government too.
This is part of a long-term strategy by some Republican leaders to permanently rig American democracy in their favor. Back in 2015, a Republican operative named Thomas Hofeller — once called “the Michelangelo of the modern gerrymander” — was hired by a Republican megadonor to conduct a study: what if the rules of redistricting were changed to draw legislative districts based on the number of voting citizens living in them, not the total number of people living in a state?
Hofeller recognized this change would be a “radical departure from the federal ‘one person, one vote’ rule presently used in the United State[s].”
Hofeller even recognized that it would be hard to convince the Supreme Court to mandate this change, unless… they could figure out how to add a citizenship question on the upcoming 2020 Census.
Then, in the next round of redistricting, the plan was for Republicans to use that citizenship data to supercharge their partisan gerrymandering strategy: excising a large number of Americans out of redistricting altogether, and packing the remaining Democrats and voters of color into as few districts as possible.
Although we have won the fight against a citizenship question from appearing on the 2020 Census, the president has issued an executive order to retrieve citizenship information from executive agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Trump’s executive order will likely let gerrymandering politicians use citizenship data to erase millions of people from political representation.
After all, we know that was the true purpose behind the citizenship question — thanks to files recovered in our Common Cause v. Lewis case that reveal the GOP plan to rig redistricting in favor of “Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.” And, Trump’s executive order is part of that same years-long plot to redraw our legislative districts based on citizen voting-age population (CVAP) instead of total population.
Common Cause and our 1.2 million members and supporters will fight any attempt to draw legislative districts that does not include all people — because every person in the United States deserves representation in our government.