The Citizenship Question on the 2020 Census

Live: Protest rally outside Supreme Court over 2020 citizenship question on census

The Story:

On Thursday, June 27, the US Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, struck down the Trump administration’s attempt to add (or, strictly, to restore) a question about citizenship to the forthcoming 2020 Census.

Background: 

The citizenship question came under attack in the courts for a wide range of reasons and on the basis of a lot of legal theories. Chiefly, the litigants were concerned that the question would discourage non-citizens from responding, and that this would result in an undercount that would do harm to specific communities, cities, and states.

In the end, though, the court decided the case on a dry-sounding issue of administrative procedure.

“We do not hold that the agency decision here was substantively invalid,” the majority opinion said, “But agencies [must provide] an explanation for agency action. What was provided here was more of a distraction.”

The Thing to Know:

In principle, the Commerce Department could re-work its explanation for the addition of a citizenship question, and its next explanation could survive judicial challenge. Given the time constraint, though, it seems unlikely that will happen.

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