Machinations and Manipulations in the Census Case

Before the Supreme Court wraps up its term this month, it is expected to issue a ruling in Department of Commerce v. New York (otherwise known as the Census case).  The case concerns Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to reinstitute a question about citizenship in the 2020 census.  Census authorities have been inquiring about citizenship status in one form or another for nearly all of the last 200 years, whether as a component of the decennial census or since 2005 as part of an annual survey that reaches a fraction of households.  Nonetheless, this latest decision was met by a court challenge.  The plaintiffs in the case (a collection of states, cities, counties, and civil rights groups) sued the Trump administration in federal district court, and Judge Jesse Furman, an Obama appointee, ruled in January that the citizenship question could not be used in the 2020 decennial census.  The Supreme Court took the unusual step of agreeing to hear the case on direct appeal from the district court …

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