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SCOTUS to Decide Citizenship Question on 2020 Census

February 22, 2019 by Gail Nussbaum in Law, News and Media
This is a card puncher, an integral part of the tabulation system used by the United States Census Bureau to compile the thousands of facts gathered by the Bureau. Holes are punched in the card according to a prearranged code transferring the facts from the census questionnaire into statistics. [Woman operating the card puncher]

The 12 justices of the US Supreme Court have decided they will review the legality of incorporating a question about citizenship onto the upcoming 2020 census. The judges promise a quick decision, since the census forms need to be printed in time to distribute them before the census must begin.

The results of the US census, which takes place every ten years, play a crucial role in the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives in addition to the distribution of over 900 billion of federal dollars across the country. The knowledge obtained by the census also helps local governments make informed decisions about their citizenry concerning such things as schools, hospitals, transportation infrastructure; police and fire departments.

The United States Census Bureau is part of the US Department of Commerce and a principal agent of the US Federal Statistical System.
The Supreme Court will decide whether to uphold or vote down a lower court ruling which blocked the Trump administration from adding the citizen question to the form. The last time such a question was placed on the census was in 1950. The exact wording of the question is:

“Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

Dozens of states, cities and other groups are fighting the administration over the inclusion of this question. They fear that having such a question on the forms will lower census participation among families or households which include non-US citizens. This could lead to a too-small number for immigrants and other communities of color, creating a picture of a larger community that is not a true reflection of the reality. This could in turn leave these communities under-represented and under-funded.

“Adding a citizenship question to the census would cause incalculable damage to our democracy,” said Dale Ho, one of the lead plaintiffs’ attorneys at the ACLU. “The evidence presented at trial exposed this was the Trump administration’s plan from the get-go.”

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has decided to hear this case defending the government’s legal and reasonable decision to reinstate a citizenship question on the 2020 census,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco.

Arguments from the sides will be heard in April, and the justices will hand down their decision by June.

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About Gail Nussbaum

Gail Nussbaum has been involved in politics and diplomacy for over 15 years. Her interest in foreign relations, economics and budget policy has led her to her position as fiscal policy writer at Left Justified. Gail can be contacted at gailnussbaum(at)leftjustified.com.

View all posts by Gail Nussbaum →

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