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State Attorneys General Reject Citizenship Question on Census

State attorneys general from across the country are resisting attempts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

February 12, 2018

A coali­tion includ­ing nine­teen state attor­neys general and the Governor of Color­ado is urging Secret­ary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to reject the U.S. Depart­ment of Justice’s recent request to add a citizen­ship ques­tion to the 2020 Census. In a letter to Secret­ary Ross, the coali­tion—which repres­ents states from across the coun­try—­ex­plains that adding a citizen­ship ques­tion would depress parti­cip­a­tion in the census, jeop­ard­iz­ing the accur­acy of its head­count and trig­ger­ing a string of other harms, from under­min­ing the once-in-a-decade process of appor­tion­ing congres­sional seats to depriving states of funds neces­sary to meet their resid­ents’ needs.

Beyond high­light­ing the seri­ous, prac­tical harms of includ­ing a citizen­ship ques­tion on the census, the letter points to poten­tial legal prob­lems with doing so. Accord­ing to the attor­neys general, citizen­ship inform­a­tion is not—­con­trary to the Depart­ment of Justice’s claim­s—ne­ces­sary to enforce the Voting Rights Act and may well under­mine it. They further contend that adding a citizen­ship ques­tion would viol­ate both the Consti­tu­tion and other federal laws and policies.

No citizen­ship ques­tions have appeared on the census forms sent to all house­holds since the Voting Rights Act was enacted in 1965. In urging the Secret­ary Ross to reject the citizen­ship ques­tion, the state attor­neys general echo the warn­ings recently voiced by lead­ing civil rights organ­iz­a­tions and good govern­ment groups, includ­ing the Bren­nan Center for Justice. Secret­ary Ross faces a March 31 dead­line for placing any new ques­tions on the census.

Multi State Attor­ney General Letter Re 2020 Census by The Bren­nan Center for Justice on Scribd