Census 2020 citizenship question: Feds, groups fought for months before courts nixed it
The road to adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census went through several federal agencies, only to be blocked by three federal courts. Here are excerpts from the trial records and judges' decisions:
Letter from Arthur Gary, general counsel, Justice Management Division, Department of Justice, to Census Bureau Acting Director Ron Jarmin, Dec. 12, 2017:
"This data is critical to the department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting. To fully enforce those requirements, the department needs a reliable calculation of the citizen voting-age population in localities where voting rights violations are alleged or suspected."
Ron Jarmin to Arthur Gary, Dec. 22, 2017:
"The best way to provide ... block-level data with citizen voting population by race and ethnicity would be through utilizing a linked file of administrative and survey data the Census Bureau already possesses. This would result in higher quality data produced at lower cost."
Letter from Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Jan. 4, 2018:
"The entire justification for the request should be viewed skeptically as an attempt to throw a wrench into final planning and preparations for an enumeration that already faces enormous challenges, including inadequate and delayed funding, cyber-security risks, and a climate of fear fanned by anti-immigrant rhetoric."
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' decision memo, March 26, 2018:
"While there is widespread belief among many parties that adding a citizenship question could reduce response rates, the Census Bureau’s analysis did not provide definitive, empirical support for that belief."
Decision of Federal District Judge Jesse Furman, New York, Jan. 15, 2019:
"The court’s conclusion is supported by the sheer number of ways in which Secretary Ross and his aides tried to avoid disclosure of, if not conceal, the real timing and the real reasons for the decision to add the citizenship question."
Decision of Federal District Judge Richard Seeborg, California, March 6, 2019:
"The reasonable inference to be drawn ... is that Secretary Ross had already made up his mind to include the citizenship question on the 2020 Census before he received the (Justice Department) request letter."
Decision of Federal District Judge George Hazel, Maryland, April 5, 2019:
"Every scientific analysis in the administrative record confirms that the addition of the citizenship question will result in less accurate and less complete citizenship data."