Census Suit Over Citizenship Question Is Likely to Move Forward

A lawsuit seeking to prevent the Commerce Department from asking U.S. residents whether they’re citizens is likely to move forward after a judge allowed the plaintiffs to seek additional evidence.

Advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and more than a dozen states, cities and counties have sued the department over its decision to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census. They say the move discriminates against immigrants and will reduce the accuracy of the count by reducing participation. The Commerce Department asked U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in New York to throw out the suit, saying information about citizenship has been collected since 1840.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told lawmakers last month that the question would lead to reduced, but not greatly lower, response rates, seeking to quell concerns over participation. On Tuesday, Brett Shumate, a Justice Department lawyer, said the plaintiffs haven’t met their burden of showing tthe department’s methods are flawed.

But Furman said the states could seek additional evidence — including a complete record of the administrative process that led to the decision — because the U.S. won’t be overly burdened “in the unlikely” event he dismisses the case. The plaintiffs say Ross may have included the question before consulting with the Justice Department, despite his claim that the decision was made at its request.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net Paul Cox