Supreme Court will decide census citizenship question

Decision could affect congressional delegations and appropriations

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the citizenship question case the second week of April. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Supreme Court will decide by the end of June whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a quick schedule so questionnaires can be printed on time.

In a one-line order Friday, the justices agreed to hear oral arguments in the case the second week of April. The Justice Department asked for the rapid review because the government must finalize the census questionnaire by the end of June, which is also when the Supreme Court term ends.

The high court’s decision ultimately could affect congressional delegations and appropriations. The census is used to determine the total population of the United States, regardless of immigration status, to fairly distribute federal funds to states and localities, and to reapportion congressional seats and districts, among other things.

A federal judge in New York this month stopped Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from adding the question to the census, ruling that the Trump administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The Supreme Court action Friday means the dispute leapfrogs over the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The Trump administration argued in a petition that Ross followed the proper decision-making process to add the question, which has been used in previous censuses. Challengers argued that the question would deter immigrants from participating and ultimately benefit Republicans.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the lower court found that a citizenship question would stop about 6.5 million people from participating. That would cause California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, New York and Illinois to face a “certainly impending” or “substantial risk of losing a seat” in Congress and numerous states to “lose funds from several federal programs.”

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