Immigrant-rights groups challenging the decision to add a citizenship question on the 2020 census form asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to delay a ruling on whether the Trump administration should be allowed to do so until this fall, at least until a lower court hears allegations that the decision was an effort to benefit the GOP.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents some of the challengers, said that if the Supreme Court won’t affirm lower court rulings to not include the question on the census form, they should send the issue back to a lower court.
“If ever there were a case that should be decided on the basis of a true and complete record, it is this one,” ACLU lawyer Dale Ho wrote in a brief. “Even an appearance that the government has manipulated the census for partisan and racially discriminatory purposes would undermine public confidence in our representative democracy.”
The Trump administration claims the question was added to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prevents discrimination against minority voters. The ACLU believes it is just a pretext, citing evidence from a North Carolina redistricting case showing how the citizenship question originated.
The Wall Street Journal reports that earlier this year, three federal district courts ordered the question to be struck after they discovered the Commerce Department did not follow federal laws regarding transparency and reasonable grounds for policy shifts.
The Supreme Court, which heard oral argument in April, is to decide on the case by the end of this month. The conservative majority seems inclined to let the citizenship question proceed, not focusing on the motivation behind Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision.
While lawyers for the plaintiffs say the census question was aimed at disenfranchising Democrats and minority voters, the Department of Justice maintains their filings are just “smoke and mirrors” and mere arguments by conspiracy theorists.