The Supreme Court is ready to hand down its much-anticipated decision on whether the Trump administration can include a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
The question has been the focus of multiple legal challenges since it was announced in early 2018. A courtroom twist this past week added a new level of drama that could affect the Census Bureau’s timeline for finalizing and printing the decennial questionnaire.
Opponents of the citizenship question cite studies that show it might lead to an inaccurate population count, which would impact the data used to determine congressional representation and the allocation of federal funds to states.
The White House administration has been steadfast in its insistence that including the question is necessary to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Critics say that records found on the hard drive of late GOP strategist Thomas Hofeller, who earned a reputation for helping Republicans in the redrawing of several key district maps in recent years, show he was involved in the creation of the citizenship question.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has filed the court documents, has pointed to a 2015 study conducted by Hofeller that found a citizenship question would help Republicans in redistricting while harming Hispanic communities.
The Trump administration isn’t going down without a fight.
Administration officials have urged the courts to not allow any further delays over the citizenship question, pointing to a July 1 deadline to finalize census materials.
The Justice Department also filed a notice with the Maryland court on Wednesday that pointed to other court documents in a North Carolina partisan gerrymandering lawsuit suggesting the new evidence was improperly obtained.
“The filing raises serious questions about whether its disclosure was unlawful, whether any of it is privileged or proprietary, and whether the lawyers who solicited the disclosure violated their ethical obligations,” the Justice Department wrote.
The Supreme Court is facing a request from the ACLU to postpone its ruling on the citizenship question until a federal judge in New York considers evidence also tied to Hofeller.
Legal experts say they are still expecting the court’s conservative majority to rule in favor of allowing the additional census question, based on the justices’ line of questioning during oral arguments earlier this year. But that was before the Hofeller documents surfaced.