Will fast track case because the Census Bureau needs to begin printing forms by summer…
(David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times) The Supreme Court meets behind closed doors Friday to weigh a question that could shape the political power of California for the decade ahead.
At issue is the Trump administration’s plan to ask all households for the first time since 1950 whether occupants are U.S. citizens.
State officials and Latino activists have been sounding the alarm, arguing that this single change to next year’s census could have a broad and unforeseen impact.
If the Trump White House wanted to deal a political blow to California, “the most effective way to do it would be to promote an intentional undercount of the state in the 2020 census,” said Arturo Vargas, chief executive of the National Association of Elected and Appointed Latino Officials in Los Angeles. “And I think that’s precisely what’s behind the adding of this question.”
However, others contend that the inclusion of illegal immigrants in apportioning political representation, as determined by the census, is inherently unfair and unconstitutional, particularly as mega-liberal states like California defy federal law in declaring themselves as “sanctuaries.”
The once-a-decade count will be used to divide up political power among the states and within states, and political scientists predicted in court testimony that California would lose billions in federal funds and at least one and possibly as many as three seats in the House—and the same number of electoral votes—if the citizenship question is used next year.
California would be hit especially hard, they said, because 28 percent of the state’s households have a family member who is not a citizen.
Over the advice of census experts, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced last year he would add the citizenship question in order, he said, to “provide complete and accurate data” for the census.
For each person, the head of household will be asked, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” The answer comes in one of five boxes to be checked: (1) “Yes, born in the United States”; (2) “Yes, born in Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands or Northern Marianas”; (3) “Yes, born abroad to U.S. citizen parent or parents”; (4) “Yes, U.S. citizen by naturalization—Print year of naturalization”; or (5) “No. Not a U.S. citizen.”
Ross said he chose to add the extra question because the Justice Department said it needed the citizenship data to comply with the Voting Rights Act.
On Friday, lawyers for California and the Justice Department will present their final arguments in San Francisco in the state’s suit, California vs. Ross, that seeks to block the change. At the same time, the Supreme Court justices will meet privately to weigh the administration’s request to decide the issue on a fast track in the case from New York.
Solicitor Gen. Noel Francisco said the high court must act now because the Census Bureau needs to begin printing forms by summer.
If the justices agree to hear the case, Department of Commerce vs. New York, they will bypass the appellate courts and schedule a special argument in late April or May.
They will review a 277-page opinion handed down last month by activist U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in New York, who insinuated that Ross was lying to hide his partisan motives by overruling the Obama-era statisticians and demographers who had spent a decade preparing for the census. Furman blisteringly attacked the commerce secretary for including such a charged and untested question.
Although Ross told lawmakers he had acted “solely” in response to a request from the Justice Department, emails released during the litigation showed Ross himself had prompted the Justice Department to make the request. The judge also noted that early in 2017, Ross spoke with then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach about the issue. They “discussed the potential effect on ‘congressional apportionment’ of adding ‘one simple question’ to the census,” he wrote. Furman ruled the addition of the new question violated the Administrative Procedures Act because it was “arbitrary and capricious.”
The Constitution calls for an “actual enumeration” of the population every 10 years and says representatives “shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state.” This has been understood to mean that all residents are counted equally in the census, regardless of their citizenship status.
(c)2019 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.