Citizenship Questions Looks Likely To Be Added to 2020 Census

A controversial question over a resident's citizenship on the 2020 census looks likely to be added to the 2020 questionnaire, it was reported today.

Every ten years, the Constitution charges the federal government with counting how many people are living in the United States in order to determine how congressional seats and billions in federal funding will be allocated to states and local jurisdictions. But for the 2020 questionnaire, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross directed the Census Bureau to re-add a question about a resident's citizenship for the first time since 1950. Critics say the move would reduce response rates from people across the nation, especially in households with non-citizens.

Today, both sides got their moment before the Supreme Court as the nine justices listened to arguments about the question, both for and against. Conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch appeared to agree with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's actions of adding the question to the census while the court's four liberal justices, while the court's four liberal justices pressed the government about potential reduced response rates.

However, the court's conservative majority appeared willing to rule that Ross acted within his authority to add the question because no method is guaranteed to produce an accurate count of residents in the U.S.

Previously, lower courts have ruled against the government adding the question back to the census, pointing to the administration's shifting rationale for adding the question. Ross lost his case in district courts in California, New York and Maryland, after judges described acts of subterfuge and misleading statements about the reason for asking the citizenship question.

The Supreme Court must now decide whether Ross had good reason to re-add the citizenship question and if he acted within the bounds of the Constitution. The decision is expected to be delivered by the court in June, just in time for the Census Bureau to print the 2020 questionnaire.

Photo: Getty Images

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