The census: Asking about citizenship

The Supreme Court seems poised to help the Trump administration “rig the architecture of democracy,” said Jamelle Bouie in The NewYork Times. During oral arguments last week, the court’s conservatives overtly defended the administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, despite estimates that 6.5 million people would not fill out the form as a result.

Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch asked why the U.S. shouldn’t add a citizenship question like “virtually every English-speaking country,” while Samuel Alito said he doubted there would be a lower response rate “because of this one factor.” Three lower federal courts have ruled against the administration on factual and legal grounds, said E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post. They found that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross lied about his partisan motives for wanting to add the citizenship question. But the Supreme Court’s conservative wing dismissed all that as irrelevant. By restricting voting rights and now “distorting” the process for drawing electoral maps, conservatives—“including the ones wearing the robes of justice”—are openly fighting for minority rule.

When did tallying citizens become antidemocratic? asked Jonathan Tobin in TheFederalist.com. Just as Democrats objected to requiring voters to show IDs, they’re again exploiting “the language of equal rights” to give illegal constituents undue influence. The census’s goal of counting every U.S. resident was established back when slaves weren’t citizens and women couldn’t vote. Twisting that to ensure immigrants facing deportation get equal representation in Congress “is as bizarre as it is untenable.” Legally speaking, said David French in NationalReview.com, Trump’s authority to add this question isn’t “a very close call.” Congress gives the secretary of commerce broad discretion in crafting the census, and “it’s not the Supreme Court’s job” to substitute its judgment for his.Even if the motives behind the citizenship question are apparent, said David Graham in TheAtlantic .com, “the effects are not so easy to predict.

The census affects not only how seats in the U.S. House are allocated, but also billions in federal funding for Medicaid, highways, and more. If the census undercounts Hispanic residents, blue states California and New York will be hurt, but so will red states Texas, Arizona, and many Southern states that have had a big influx of immigrants.It’s yet another example of Trump administration policy that could wind up hurting his base.