U.S. Supreme Court says no – for now – on including a citizenship question on U.S. census

Photo by Alex Wong,Getty Images

Update: President Donald Trump is asking his lawyers whether he can delay the 2020 census long enough to allow the federal courts to resolve the citizenship question issue. Here is a link to his tweet.

Earlier: Florida may get a more accurate census count next year, after the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an effort by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the survey.

In a 5-4 majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts questioned the U.S. Department of Commerce’s justification for adding the citizenship question to the survey.

“Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. 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,” Roberts wrote. The full opinion is here.

The decision sends the case back to the lower courts, with observers predicting the continuing litigation will prevent the Trump administration from adding the citizenship question because of the lack of time before the new 2020 census count begins.

Democrats and other Florida advocates feared including the question could cause a severe undercount of Florida’s population in the 2020 census. The state has an estimated 775,000 undocumented residents who might be reluctant to answer the question, advocates say.

As the Phoenix previously reported, an accurate count of the population is important to Florida. An undercount could jeopardize the state’s effort to add two new congressional seats. It could also lead to Florida’s being short-changed on federal funding for critical programs like Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor and disabled, food stamps, highway construction and subsidized early childhood education.

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