With the U.S. Supreme Court blocking, at least temporarily, a citizenship question on the new U.S. census, state Sen. Bobby Powell says he will refile legislation establishing a statewide committee to offer guidance as Florida goes through the 2020 population count.
In a 5-4 decision on Thursday, the nation’s highest court rejected the initial effort by the U.S. Commerce Department to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census forms. The decision, which called the initial explanation for the citizenship question “contrived,” sent the case back to the lower courts for more litigation.
Democrats and other advocates fear that if the question is used in the 2020 census it could cause a significant undercount in a state like Florida, which has an estimated 775,000 undocumented immigrants.
The undercount could cause Florida to lose new congressional seats and could result in less federal funding for critical programs like Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor and disabled.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling against the citizenship question was a major victory for democracy and for Florida,” Powell said in a written statement. “This single question would have discouraged participation from our immigrant communities and would have invited inaccuracy into the entire process.”
Powell, a Palm Beach County Democrat, said “now that this obstacle to a fair and accurate count has been ruled out,” he will refile legislation for the 2020 Legislature that would establish a statewide Census Complete Count Committee with the goal of making sure the count is accurate.
The committee would include state and local leaders as well as representatives from a diverse group of communities.
Powell filed a similar bill in the 2019 session, but the legislation never received a hearing in the Republican-led Legislature. State Rep. Anika Tene Omphroy, a Broward County Democrat, filed a related bill in the House, but it too never received a hearing.
The Phoenix has previously reported on how Florida’s Republican leaders have been reluctant to actively engage in the new census, compared to efforts in other states.