The Trump administration had argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that it needed a decision on the citizenship question because the printer’s deadline for the 2020 Census form was July 1.
In fact, the Supreme Court relied on this representation, bypassing the court of appeals (which is extremely rare) and adding the constitutional question to the appeal that the challengers had not raised. The Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration. Trump administration misses deadline to begin printing Census forms after court defeat.
After that loss last week, Trump made ridiculous noise about trying to delay the census, something that the Constitution does not permit and would be unprecedented. Trump’s idea for U.S. Census delay would be unprecedented – experts.
Today, the Department of Justice announced that the Trump administration will begin printing the 2020 Census without the citizenship question, conceding defeat.
The Trump administration said Tuesday it has begun printing 2020 census forms without a question about citizenship, indicating it may be backing down from a lengthy court battle.
Following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling last week that the Commerce Department had failed to justify its proposal, a Justice Department attorney advised lawyers in the case that “the decision has been made” to print without asking about citizenship.
Former Obama White House lawyer Daniel Jacobson, one of the lawyers representing the challengers, tweeted:
This could end Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ two-year-old battle to add a question on citizenship, one that federal court judges in New York, California and Maryland have struck down as illegal, unconstitutional, or both.
Reaction was swift among civil rights and immigrant rights groups that had challenged the administration’s effort to add the question. Dale Ho, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued the case at the Supreme Court, tweeted one word: “Boom.”
“The Supreme Court’s ruling left little opportunity for the administration to cure the defects with its decision to add a citizenship question and, most importantly, they were simply out of time given the deadline for printing forms,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The Census Bureau has said adding the question would result in an undercount of Hispanics, who live predominantly in areas represented by Democrats. That could cause some states to lose seats in Congress for the next decade, including California, Texas, Florida and New York.
The administration originally said it would have to begin printing questionnaires this month in order to conduct the decennial census next year, as required by law. Census officials had said they could stretch the start date to October. Further court battles ultimately would be decided by the Supreme Court, possibly in September.
Last week’s ruling by Chief Justice John Roberts questioned the stated rationale for the administration’s effort – enforcing the Voting Rights Act – just as challenging states and immigrant rights groups have done.
“The evidence tells a story that does not match the explanation (Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross) gave for his decision,” Roberts wrote. “The sole stated reason seems to have been contrived.”
In a complex decision with several dissents and concurrences, the court’s four liberal justices said they would have struck down the citizenship question outright, while the court’s four other conservative justices said it should have been upheld.
Adding a citizenship question to the census would affect some 22 million noncitizens. Even if only a small percentage of them refused to return the questionnaire, it would alter the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives and about $650 billion in federal funds.
The lower court judges – all named by President Barack Obama – described acts of subterfuge and misleading statements intended to obscure the real reasons for asking the citizenship question. In the New York case that came to the Supreme Court, Furman called them “the acts and statements of officials with something to hide.”
Since that case was heard in April, challengers discovered documents suggesting political or racial motives in the files of a deceased Republican expert on redistricting who concluded the move could lead to reduced voting power for Hispanics.
That redistricting/gerrymandering case is now proceeding in state court under a state constitutional challenge, using the newly discovered Hofeller evidence.
The Charlotte Observer reports, GOP lawmakers don’t want their mapmaker’s files to be seen during gerrymandering case (of course not):
Republican lawmakers battled with anti-gerrymandering activists in court Tuesday, arguing over previously secret files of the deceased Republican redistricting expert Tom Hofeller.
Although the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of North Carolina Republicans last week, upholding the state’s districts for its 13 U.S. House of Representatives seats, that ruling did not stop the state-level case that’s challenging the lines used to elect members of the state legislature.
The trial in that state-level case is set to begin in two weeks, on July 15. Hofeller’s files could have a major impact on the case, if they’re allowed to be used.
Republican lawmakers “had specifically promised the court that their mapmaker would not even possess racial data,” let alone use it, said Daniel Jacobson, one of the lawyers for the people and groups suing to overturn the maps. And Hofeller’s files, Jacobson said, will show that Hofeller broke the rules and did consider voters’ race when dividing them between districts.
“It’s hard to imagine evidence that would be more directly responsive” to the key parts of the trial, Jacobson said.
The maps in question were drawn in 2017, to replace a previous set of maps — also drawn by Hofeller, in 2011 — that were ruled unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering.
The state’s Republican legislative leaders strongly objected to the files being used in court for this case.
* * *
The case is before a three-judge panel, which is how North Carolina handles trials over constitutional issues. One of the judges, Wake County senior Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway, told Strach that a federal court just ruled in a different case — about changes to the U.S. Census that the Trump administration wants to make — that the Hofeller files could be used in that case.
Strach said he thought the federal decision was wrong, “and we certainly don’t think this court should make the same mistake.”
The judges hearing the case did not rule on it Tuesday, but a decision is expected soon.
It’s a question of fact for a jury to decide. Let the evidence in.