U.S. Supreme Court to decide census citizenship question’s fate

Written by: Sarah Hughes
Date Posted: February 22, 2019

The Supreme Court announced last week that it will grant the Trump administration’s request to bypass the typical appeals process and will hear arguments on the census citizenship question case. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled to begin in late April. A decision on whether or not the question can be included must be made before June, when census questionnaires are finalized for printing.

Several states, including Colorado, filed a lawsuit last year to block the question from appearing on the 2020 Census form. The Trump administration appealed the case to the Supreme Court after U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman ruled last month that the federal government’s decision to add the citizenship question violated several provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act. Judge Furman’s decision blocked the government from including the question on the 2020 Census form that will go to every household in the country next year. The Census Bureau has not asked this question of every household in nearly 70 years, and the Census Bureau’s own researchers have cautioned that including a citizenship question in the current political environment could dramatically depress response rates and result in an inaccurate census count that will haunt the nation for the next decade.

The Children’s Campaign applauded the lower court’s decision to block the question from appearing on the census. In addition to being an indispensable data source, the decennial census also helps direct billions of dollars in federal funding to states for programs on which Colorado’s kids and families rely. In fiscal year 2016 alone, Colorado received more than $13 billion in federal funding from programs that use census data to allocate funds. Lower response rates on the 2020 Census would result in less funding for programs that help Colorado kids and families thrive.

As the case works its way through the courts, Congress has the opportunity to step in and remove the uncertainty surrounding the citizenship question. The Census IDEA Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Every Person Counts Act, introduced in the Senate, would block the question from appearing on the 2020 Census. We encourage Congress to support these pieces of legislation and ensure a full, fair and accurate census count next year.

Sarah Hughes

About Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes is Vice President of Research Initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. In this role, she leads the organization’s research and data analysis efforts, including the development and publication of the annual KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report, and provides research and data support to inform and advance the Children’s Campaign’s policy agenda. She also co-chairs the organization’s internal Equity Team. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign, Sarah worked in communications and spent several years working and volunteering with kids in various capacities. She holds a Master of Social Work with a specialization in Advocacy, Leadership and Social Change from the University of Illinois and a B.S. in Business and Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis. She lives in Denver with her husband and their two crazy dogs.