The Supreme Court on Friday broadened the scope of its review of the legality of adding a question about citizenship to next year’s census, telling lawyers to add their views on whether that move would be unconstitutional. The case up to now has been only a test of whether asking everyone in America about their citizenship would be a violation of two federal laws.
In a brief order issued Friday afternoon after a private conference, the Justices gave lawyers added space in their written briefs to argue this question: “Whether the Secretary of Commerce’s decision to add a citizenship question to the Decennial Census violated the Enumeration Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2, Clause 3.”
That part of Article I specifies that the census taken every ten years must be an “actual enumeration,” meaning that everyone living in the country at the time of the census must be counted. States, local governments and private civil rights groups that are challenging the Trump Administration’s plan to add the citizenship question have contended that this will result in an under-count of the actual population next year, especially of Hispanic citizens and of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
The case is set for hearing on April 23, and is expected to be decided by the end of June.
If the Court were to decide that adding the citizenship question does not violate the two federal laws that are involved, it would then have to decide if doing so would violate the Constitution, and could provide a major new precedent on what it means to gather an “actual enumeration” when taking the census.
(A full analysis of the constitutional issue, and the reasons why it is now being added to the Supreme Court’s review of the controversy, can be read here, at the site of Constitution Daily, the blog published by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.)