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Posted on March 27 2018

Commerce Sec Ross:

2020 Census will include citizenship question


In February of 2018  the following Attorneys General of New York, Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the Governor of Colorado…sent a strongly worded letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, voicing grave concern about the process and a reversal in previous Census questionnaire.

Highlights of their letter below:

  • …write to oppose the recent request by the Department of Justice to add a question on citizenship to the questionnaire for the 2020 decennial Census…”


  • …”Constitution to determine “the whole number of persons in each state,”2 threaten our states’ fair representation in Congress, dilute our states’ role in the Electoral College, and deprive our states of their fair share of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds that are allocated in part on decennial Census data.


  • Indeed, as the Census Bureau has itself previously explained, “any effort to ascertain citizenship” in the decennial Census “will inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count.”


  • Indeed, in a brief filed with the Supreme Court less than three years ago, four former Directors of the Census Bureau…“a one-by-one citizenship inquiry would invariably lead to a lower response rate to the Census in general,”


  • And would “seriously frustrate the Census Bureau’s ability to conduct the only count the Constitution expressly requires: determining the whole number of persons in each state in order to apportion House seats among the states.”


  • “The former Directors explained that “[r]ecent experience demonstrates lowered participation in the Census and increased suspicion of government collection of information in general. Particular anxiety exists among non-citizens. There would be little incentive for non-citizens to offer to the government their actual status; the result [of inquiring about citizenship status] would be a reduced rate of response overall and an increase in inaccurate responses.”


The Conclusion reads in part:


  • Fair, proportionate electoral representation in our democracy depends on valid Census data. The proposal to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census questionnaire would defeat that goal.. (emphasis added)


  • “violate the Constitution, and undermine the purposes of the Voting Rights Act that the Justice Department claims it wants to protect.”


  • “inclusion of a citizenship question would threaten the Census Bureau’s ability to conduct its constitutionally- mandated role, and would be arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act….” (emphasis added)


  • causing significant, direct harm to our states and residents – we urge you to reject the Justice Department’s request.” (emphasis added)


Link to the AGs letter to Sec Ross 2020 US Census Letter from AGs


In kind, today Senator Feinstein issued a press release, which largely echos the previous arguments outlined in the February 2018 letter from the State AGs to Sec Ross and cc’d the Justice Department. In Senator Feinstein’s Press Release this particular paragraph stood out:

  • Given President Trump’s toxic rhetoric and aggressive policies toward immigrants, it’s clear his administration wants to include this question to discourage participation in immigrant communities. Individuals living in mixed-status households may be afraid to participate, fearing their responses would be used to target them or their families.” (emphasis added)


Link to Senator Feinstein’s March 27, 2018 Press Release here

Senator Feinstein 2020 Census Question


State of California v Sec Ross


AG Becerra lawsuit effectively argues that the inclusion of a “citizenship question” violates the mandated processes as prescribed by the Administrative Procurement Act. Which expressly states, prohibit of “arbitrary and capricious” actions.

  • “It is long settled that all persons residing in the United States — citizens and non-citizens alike — must be counted to fulfill the Constitution’s ‘actual Enumeration’ mandate“
  • “We’re prepared to do what we must to protect California from a deficient census…”
  • ”Including a citizenship question on the 2020 census is not just a bad idea — it is illegal.”

Candidly AG Becerra may have a solid a argument, given what is stated in the Constitution “actual enumeration”.

Link to AG Becerra Lawsuit here CA v Sec Ross 2020 Census



Just a short while ago New York Attorney General Schneiderman issued the following statement. Link to Press Release here NY AG to lead MultiState Lawsuit re 2020 US Census

To Lead Multistate Lawsuit

To Preserve Fair And Accurate Census

A partial list of various Supreme Court cases re US Census:

  •  New York v. Department of Commerce, 1989 – “undercount urban residents and minorities thereby denying New York residents their fair share of federal representation and funding”
  • U. S., Department of Commerce v. Montana, 1990 – “Montana lost one of its two congressional seats after 1990”
  • Franklin v. Massachusetts, 1992, 2000 & 2010 “citizens and non-citizens plus United States persons serving overseas in the military or working for the State Department”
  • U. S., Department of Commerce v. U. S. House of Representative, 1999 – “plaintiffs sought to force the Bush Administration and the Census Bureau to adjust the census count for undercount”
  • UTAH v. EVANS I & UTAH v. EVANS II 2000 & 2002 – “Utah challenged the use of “imputation” in the decennial census.”


Conversly Secretary Ross stated in a letter to California:

  • “Citizenship questions have been included on prior decennial censuses,”
  • “Between 1820 and 1950, almost every decennial census asked a question on citizenship in some form.”



In predictable fashion and perhaps in an attempt to buttress the rational of including the citizenship question, Sec Ross squarely put the responsibility  on the Department of Justice to “assist with enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.”   It’s a classic Trump-ian move, of political hot potato and once again lacking in due diligence. Suffice to say the legal battle has just begun. So I would definitely watch this issue, the consequences could be…interesting.


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