Friday, June 28, 2019

Supreme Court rejects Trump administration's 'contrived' reasoning on census citizenship question

On Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration's stated reason for adding the citizenship question to the 2020 Census, but left the door open for the administration to provide a better reason if it wanted the question added, Adam Liptak reports for The New York Times.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)
The ruling was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court's liberal judges. In the majority opinion, Roberts wrote that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's explanation for adding the question "appears to have been contrived" and wrote the executive branch must "offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public . . . Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case."

Ross testified before Congress in 2017 that he decided to add the question "solely" to help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act; three federal trial judges have ruled that Ross was not being truthful. Evidence suggests that Republican party leaders added the question because they knew it would benefit the GOP.

"The practical impact of the decision was not immediately clear," Liptak reports. "While the question is barred for now, it is at least possible that the administration will be able to offer adequate justifications for it. But time is short, as the census forms must be printed soon."

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