Posted on March 27, 2018

Citizenship Question to Be Put Back on the 2020 Census For First Time in 70 Years

Carolyn McAtee Cerbin, USA Today, March 27, 2018

The Commerce Department is reinstating a citizenship question to the 2020 Census for the first time in decades, a move that some argue will lead to an undercount of minorities living in the United States.

The U.S. Census Bureau counts the total number of people in the country  —  not the total number of citizens  —  every 10 years. Though it usually doesn’t ask about a person’s citizenship status, the Justice Department asked the agency late last year to include the question. It is the first time the government has done that in 70 years.

The Census count is used to redraw congressional districts, so it can affect the makeup of Congress, and to determine where federal, state and local funds will be used to build new schools, roads, health care facilities, child-care centers and senior centers. It also forms the basis of countless government and academic studies that drive public policy decisions and legislation from Washington, D.C., to statehouses and city halls.

In a statement released Monday night, the Commerce Department said the question was being added to help enforce the Voting Rights Act. The department pointed out that previous Census surveys before 1950 consistently asked citizenship questions.


Former attorney general Eric Holder, now with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said Tuesday morning that he would sue the administration to block the question from the Census. He said asking about citizenship has nothing to do with voting rights.


In recent weeks, congressional lawmakers, mayors and civil rights activists have ramped up efforts to urge federal officials to reject the question and have called on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to turn down the request.

{snip} Terry Ao Minnis, director of Census and Voting Programs at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, {snip} and other opponents say adding the question is unnecessary and will lead to an inaccurate count because some people may be afraid to fill out the form.