A deeply divided Supreme Court appeared almost certain Tuesday to allow the Trump administration to ask about citizenship in the 2020 census.
In an expanded, 80-minute oral argument that exposed huge divisions among the justices, the court’s conservatives didn’t buy arguments that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ plan was illegal or unconstitutional. They didn’t question his motives or reasoning despite three lower court rulings against him.
Their ruling would clear the way for all households to be asked about citizenship for the first time since 1950. A reduced response rate among 22 million noncitizens would tilt the allocation of House seats and about $650 billion in federal funds from Democratic to Republican states and localities.
“Citizen voting age population is the critical element in voting rights enforcement, and this is getting citizen information,” Chief Justice John Roberts said.
The high court must decide whether Ross has ample reason to ask about citizenship, followed acceptable procedures and acted within the bounds of the Constitution. A decision is likely by the end of June, in time for the Census Bureau to print the 2020 questionnaire.