Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, 17 other state attorneys general and six cities filed suit Tuesday to block a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
The state attorneys general are concerned the question will discourage immigrants from participating.
Rosenblum joined New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in New York City to announce the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
“The census is part of the bedrock of our democracy. The U.S. Constitution guarantees an accurate census be taken every 10 years. Adding a citizenship question to the census form has a deliberate and intended chilling effect on participation,” Rosenblum said. “As state attorneys general we are committed to making sure every voice is heard, and we believe that every person in America counts.”
Accuracy in the census is important for providing appropriate federal funding to states, apportioning congressional seats and Electoral College votes and drawing state and local voting districts.
Even a 1 percent undercount on the 2010 Census would have dramatically reduced Oregon’s federal Medicaid funding by $23 million, said Kristina Edmunson, a spokeswoman in Rosenblum’s office.
Under the Constitution, the U.S. Census Bureau has an obligation to determine “the whole number of persons in each state.” Yet demanding citizenship information in the census is expected to reduce participation among immigrants and could cause a population undercount, which would disproportionately harm states with large immigrant communities, according to a news release from Rosenblum’s office.
The lawsuit against the Trump administration is based on the enumeration clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act, which permits courts to set aside unlawful or arbitrary and capricious agency decisions. The attorneys general argue that the citizenship question will impede an actual count required by the Constitution.
In addition to New York and Oregon, other plaintiffs include the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington state, and the District of Columbia. The cities of Chicago, Philadelphia, Providence, San Francisco, Seattle and New York City and the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors also has joined the suit.
Questions about citizenship have been part of the decennial census in the past, according to the Census Bureau.
From 1970 to 2000 it was part of a “long form” sent to 1-in-6 households. The long form was eliminated in the 2010 Census.
In 2005 the Census Bureau started the American Community Survey, an annual survey sent to about 3.5 million households each year.
The survey includes questions about the respondent’s citizenship, according to the Census Bureau. But unlike the actual census, the survey is not used to apportion representation, Electoral College votes or to determine legislative districts.
The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.