The Supreme Court blocked a citizenship question from being asked on the 2020 census, at least for the time being.
The Trump administration’s Commerce Department asked earlier in the year if it could add a question about citizenship to the upcoming 2020 census, saying it would be necessary to comply with federal voting laws.
However, the topic has been steeped in controversy since its onset.
Leftist argue that the question would intimidate Hispanics and those who are not citizens and, therefore, would lead to a decline in the number of households that respond to the census. In turn, minorities may be underrepresented.
The point of the census is to collect data about the population of the US and its states. That data is then used to decide how many seats each state will get both in the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as how much federal money each state and city is given over the next ten years and how it is to be used.
The fear for liberals, such as the justices who blocked the question, is that vast communities of minorities who typically vote for the left will go uncounted, leaving them and their states with fewer votes, seats, and federal funding.
And while that reasoning is understood and we would want their areas to be accurately represented. This fear should not be what drives such a decision.
Instead, decisions should be based on what is right for the country as a whole, what is right for our citizens. It’s not our fault that those who are here illegally will feel judged and therefore want to hide their wrongdoing.
However, that is not the reason given for the question’s dismissal. Chief Justice John Roberts led four liberal justices to vote against the questions saying that “the sole stated reason” given for why it should be added was insufficient, as it “seemed to have been contrived.”
They won with a 5-4 vote.
“If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case,” he wrote in an explanation for the decision they made.
President Donald Trump says the census would be “meaningless” without the question.
Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, and Samuel Alito voted to add the question. Thomas said he would have allowed the question and criticizes the decision writing, “For the first time ever, the Court invalidates an agency action solely because it questions the sincerity of the agency’s otherwise adequate rationale.”
He added, “Echoing the din of suspicion and distrust that seems to typify modern discourse, the Court declares the Secretary’s memorandum ‘pretextual’ because, ‘viewing the evidence as a whole,’ his explanation that including a citizenship question on the census would help enforce the Voting Rights Act… ‘seems to have been contrived.’”
President Trump agrees and tweeted, “Can you believe that the Radical Left Democrats want to do our new and very important Census Report without the all-important Citizenship Question. Report would be meaningless and a waste of the $Billions (ridiculous) that it costs to put together!”
However, not all hope is lost. CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law Steve Vladeck says there could be a significant difference between the formal ruling and how it practically works out, especially given the timing.
The Commerce Department has stated, “The decision is currently being reviewed.”
But there is little time left. The administration had previously said that they would need the questionnaire to be printed by the end of June.
Even if they ask the question in a way that is “less transparently pretextual… it’s going to be difficult for the government to run the traps in time,” says Vladeck.