WASHINGTON – The 2020 decennial census will include a citizenship question, sparking outrage from Democrats across the country.
On Monday night, the Commerce Department released a statement announcing plans to reinstate a citizenship question to the 2020 census questionnaire in efforts to help enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The decision came after a request from the Justice Department for a citizenship question to be included in order to provide data otherwise not available from government surveys. The information would be used to enforce a particular section of the VRA which protects minority voting rights.
“Having citizenship data at the census block level will permit more effective enforcement of the VRA, and Secretary Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government purpose outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts,” the Commerce Department said in a statement.
The decennial census is required the Constitution and determines how federal funding is allocated. It also dictates the number of congressional seats a state is allowed, which ultimately affects the number of electors a state has in the electoral college.
Because the census influences the election process, Republicans believe a question on citizenship should be included in the census in order to be able to distinguish how many citizens there are living in the U.S. versus noncitizens. However, Democrats across the country are up in arms over the change, saying it will result in an inaccurate count and risks less federal funding and political power for immigrant communities.
Some Minnesota politicians have weighed in on the change including Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison saying the change was “driven by xenophobia.”
This change, driven by xenophobia, will reduce census participation, lead to major inaccuracies and disenfranchise already marginalized communities. It’s a blatant attack on a bedrock of our democracy. https://t.co/hW4BLOJ5Tn
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) March 27, 2018
State Rep. Erin Maye Quade (D-Apple Valley) was also quick to comment on the change, saying the census will not be accurate with the addition of a citizenship question.
Make no mistake, we will not have an accurate census because of this question. There is a reason we haven’t asked this since 1950. https://t.co/AHLGmXe6HG
— Erin Maye Quade (@ErinMayeQuade) March 27, 2018
State Rep. and Candidate for Governor Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul) called the decision “an attempt to openly disempower millions of Americans.”
This attempt to openly disempower millions of Americans undermines the heart and soul of our democracy. MN should sue to stop it and work to get a fair and honest count. https://t.co/C9ojNpqyiP
— Erin Murphy (@epmurphymn) March 27, 2018
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has announced plans to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the citizenship question. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has yet to provide a statement on the announcement.
Despite the uproar from Democrats, there is no evidence a question on citizenship would reduce participation in the survey. A study completed by Steven Camarota at the Center for Immigration Studies Director of Research found no indication a citizenship question would reduce response rates.
“It is not clear why a single citizenship question on the 2020 Census would reduce response rates, since the Bureau has been asking more detailed immigration-related questions for many years on a number of its largest and most important surveys,” Camarota wrote.
Nearly every decennial census between 1820 and 1950 featured a citizenship question. Today, other population surveys including Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey also ask citizenship questions.