CPR Member Scholar Bill Buzbee has an op-ed in The New York Times this morning in which he observes that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority faces a true rubber-meets-the-road test as it considers the Trump administration’s determination to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, despite multiple procedural and substantive problems with the plan.
The administration’s thinly veiled objective with the additional question is to discourage participation in the census by non-citizens, who might understandably fear that revealing their status on an official government questionnaire could result in deportation. Since the Constitution makes clear that the purpose of the census is to count the total population, not just citizens, such questions haven’t been included since 1960.
But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross apparently regards that problem as a feature, not a bug, no doubt with the approval of the president. So, in March 2018, he announced that a citizenship question would be included in the short-form census questionnaire that goes to most households. As Buzbee points out:
Secretary Ross’s action violated three mandates from Congress. First, the government must use alternative data sources before adding questions to a census questionnaire to acquire the information. Second, Congress required Mr …