Argument preview: Justices will review challenge to census citizenship question

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post ran on April 2, 2019, as an introduction to this blog’s symposium on Department of Commerce v. New York, as well as at Howe on the Court, where it was originally published. In March 2018, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that the 2020 census would ask whether each person being counted by the census is a U.S. citizen. Ross explained that the Department of Justice’s civil rights division wanted the data to better enforce federal voting rights laws, and he characterized the decision as routine: From 1820 until 1950, the census had generally included a question about citizenship, and from 1960 until 2000, the census asked some respondents whether they were U.S. citizens. But in January a federal district court in New York barred the government from including the question on the census, concluding that the voting-rights explanation was simply a rationale that the government came up with after it had already…

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