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Update on the 2020 Census Citizenship Question

by Sarah Skillin Woodard

The US Supreme Court just ruled that while the US Constitution does not prevent the administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census (split along ideological lines), it upheld part of a federal judge’s ruling barring the question. Chief Justice Roberts joined the liberal judges saying that under a U.S. law called the Administrative Procedure Act, the federal government is required to give a reasoned explanation for its actions.

“Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise,” Roberts wrote. The explanation provided by the government was “more of a distraction, ” he said.

In essence, the Court upheld the ability to add the question, but that the Trump administration did not make a legitimate argument for including it. This gives the administration the opportunity to try again, but as many have said, there may not be enough time given that the questionnaires need to be printed soon.

The justices sent the issue back to the Commerce Department where the US Census Bureau is administered from and it will be up to them to decide how to proceed.

Litigation is ongoing in the lower courts over evidence that the challengers have said reveals an illegal discriminatory motive by the administration for adding the question, which the high court could yet weigh in on.

We’ll keep you up to date with further developments.

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