The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday in Department of Commerce v. New York, a case challenging the addition of a citizenship question on the U.S. Census. The question asks, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross approved the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census in March. Four federal judges had blocked the question from appearing on 2020 census forms as of April 2019.
The court considered a constitutional argument against the question in addition to claims that the steps taken by the U.S. Department of Commerce to add the question violated administrative procedure under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
The constitutional argument alleges that the citizenship question is unconstitutional because it prevents the federal government from carrying out its duty under the U.S. Constitution’s Enumeration Clause to count every person living in the United States every 10 years, which could distort the proper apportionment of congressional representatives.
The administrative procedure challenge claims that, according to the administrative record, the process followed by the agency to add the citizenship question to the census was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the APA.
An analysis of the hearing by SCOTUSblog predicted a 5-4 decision to uphold the citizenship question with the justices divided along ideological lines. A ruling is expected in June.