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SCOTUS Says Citizenship Question Won’t Be On 2020 Census...But That Might Change

The Supreme Court ruled on two notable decisions on June 27, 2019 regarding the census and gerrymandering
The Supreme Court ruled on two notable decisions on June 27, 2019 regarding the census and gerrymandering

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In two politically charged rulings, the Supreme Court dealt a huge blow Thursday to efforts to combat the drawing of electoral districts for partisan gain and put a hold on the Trump administration's effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

On the court's final day of decisions before a summer break, the court rejected challenges to Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a Democratic district in Maryland. Voters and elected officials should be the arbiters of what is a political dispute, Chief Justice John Roberts said in his opinion for the court. The decision was a major blow to critics of the partisan manipulation of electoral maps that can result when one party controls redistricting.

In the census case, the court said the Trump administration's explanation for wanting to add the question was "more of a distraction" than an explanation. The administration had cited the need to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. It's unclear whether the administration would have time to provide a fuller account. Census forms are supposed to be printed beginning next week. Roberts again had the court's opinion, with the four liberals joining him in the relevant part of the outcome. A lower court found the administration violated federal law in the way it tried to add a question broadly asking about citizenship for the first time since 1950. 

The case stems from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' decision in 2018 to add a citizenship question to the next census, over the advice of career officials at the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department. At the time, Ross said he was responding to a Justice Department request to ask about citizenship in order to improve enforcement of the federal Voting Rights Act. There was no immediate response from the White House on either Supreme Court decision Thursday. 

Today on AirTalk, guest host Libby Denkmann and Supreme Court watchers will break down the two big decisions and explain their practical and political implications going forward.

With files from AP

With guest host Libby Denkmann


Amy Howe, co-founder of SCOTUSBlog and author of the blog “Howe on the Court”; she tweets @AHoweBlogger