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A Showdown on the Census Citizenship Question Is Coming to the Supreme Court

The Court is expected to issue an opinion before the end of June 2019

The Trump administration's plan to include a citizenship status question on the 2020 U.S. census has been called "an attempt to racially rig the census" by Common Cause. (Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear oral arguments on the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The addition of such a question would likely depress census turnout, skew the allocation of congressional seats, and change how billions of dollars in federal funding are distributed to the states.

The decision comes after a federal court in New York ruled against the administration in the case, New York v. United States Department of Commerce. The lower court had decided that the Commerce Department’s decision to add the question was “arbitrary” and made in violation of federal law.

In an unusual move, the Trump administration appealed the lower court’s ruling directly to the Supreme Court, rather than going first to the court of appeals.


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The Supreme Court agreed to take up two questions. First, the Justices will consider whether the New York court was correct to block the citizenship question. Second, the Court will decide if the lower court properly allowed the groups challenging the question to obtain documents and other information from the federal government.  

The Court also granted the administration’s request for a quicker-than-normal schedule, setting oral argument for the second week of the April argument session. This expedited timeline means the Court should issue an opinion before the end of June 2019, which is crucial to ensure that the 2020 Census can proceed on time.

For more on the case, visit our case page. For more on the 2020 Census, visit our resource page.

Brianna Cea

Brianna Cea is a Research and Program Associate in the Democracy Program, where her work focuses on the census, redistricting, and election security. Outside of the Brennan Center, Brianna serves as the Co-founder and CEO of Generation Vote.

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