Massachusetts may join suit over census question

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The citizenship question will likely appear on the 2020 Census

Former Attorney General Eric Holder accused the administration of political motives to discourage participation in the census; California's attorney general said he is suing the administration to block the move.

In an eight-page memo Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the Justice Department has requested that the census ask who is a citizen in order to help determine possible violations of the Voting Rights Act, to help enforce that law...

The census results are the basis for each state's number of seats in the U.S. House as well as its share of federal funding.

"This undercount would frustrate the Census Bureau's obligation under the Constitution to determine "the whole number of persons in each state, ' threaten our states" fair representation in Congress, dilute our states' role in the Electoral College, and deprive our states of their fair share of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds that are allocated in part on decennial Census data", the attorneys general argued. The lawsuit will argue that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census - an idea four prior census directors appointed by presidents from both parties have advised against - will limit participation in the census among immigrants.

Ross said the higher cost of having to do more follow-ups in the case of a lower response rate was a factor he considered, but that "the need for accurate citizenship data" outweighs concerns about the potential for fewer responses. Non-citizens do not have the right to vote in federal and state elections. Citizenship questions have also been included on prior decennial censuses.

A citizenship question hasn't appeared on the census form since 1950, according to the Commerce Department. Schneiderman will lead a multi-state lawsuit challenging the question, he announced Tuesday.

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat, tells The Associated Press that he expects his state would also join in a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census. In other words, a district where the minority voter turnout doesn't match the minority population requires the further explanation of the local residents' legal status before deciding whether to target it for remedies authorized by the Voting Rights Act. The questions in the census are generally benign, he said, but "asking about citizenship status, especially given the rhetoric about immigrants coming out of Washington, is something that in my view will spook people".

Healey has the support of Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, who has accused the Trump administration of "sabotaging" the census.

"Counting the number of US citizens in the country should be a high priority of the census, and the only way to get an accurate count is to add a question about citizenship to the census itself", Cotton said.

Opponents of the change to the Census worry that the administration's aggressive rhetoric has already made immigrants less willing to respond to government surveys, and that adding a question which asks if they are United States citizens will further depress their participation.

Commerce says that between 1820 and 1950, nearly every decennial census asked a question on citizenship in some form.

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