Are you a U.S. citizen?
When it comes to asking that question, the Supreme Court said you can be asked . . . kind of.
Thursday morning, the high court kicked the can on whether the Trump administration can include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, sending the lawsuit filed by New York state down to the lower courts.
Given that Commerce Department said it needs to start printing census questionnaires by Monday, July 1, it appears the question won’t be on the 2020 census. Unless Commerce delays printing and, given the White House’s desire to get the question on the form, that seems likely.
We said “kind of” earlier because, in its opinion, the Supreme Court said the Commerce Department has the right to include the question; the problem was the motivation behind the question.
The White House said there’s no nefarious reason behind seeking an answer to citizenship other than to get an accurate count and to support the Voting Rights Act.
However, data was discovered by the family of a late Republican redistricting expert that showed asking the question will suppress participation, particularly by Hispanics (who typically vote Democratic), which will allow for redistricting more to the advantage of Republicans.
To suggest the Republican-controlled White House is using the census as a political tool and that the Democrats seeking to block the question aren’t is naïve — both sides are seeking political advantage.
But there are more direct consequences to the issue — Arizona would likely lose a congressional seat if the number of Hispanic whites is not accurately accounted for.
Also, law enforcement and fire departments could find themselves woefully understaffed if cities, towns and counties don’t have a true population count.
Plus undercounting population will affect shared revenues coming out of the federal government.
Asking if one is a citizen is a fair question to ask. States need to know how to deal with every member of their population.
However, this administration demonizes Hispanics at every turn, as well as threatening deportation whenever the re-election polls dip or a new round of subpoenas are issued by Congress. So asking a “fair question” is likely to have significant effect on census participation.
We are operating in a climate in which racism is being used to gin up voter turnout. Until we can set aside the fear-mongering and racial animus, we believe the Supreme Court did the right thing by delaying the citizenship question’s inclusion on the census form.