The Daily Brew: Trump administration changes approach to obtaining citizenship data

Today’s Brew highlights how the federal government will collect information on residents’ citizenship + our Candidate Connection report summarizes last year’s candidate surveys  
The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Monday, July 15, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Trump directs federal agencies to provide citizenship information, ends effort to add citizenship question to 2020 census
  2. Learn more about the nearly 2,000 candidates who responded to our survey last year
  3. Florida group announces it collected almost double the required signatures for citizen voting amendment

Trump directs federal agencies to provide citizenship information, ends effort to add citizenship question to 2020 census

President Trump (R) announced Thursday that his administration would cease efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Trump instead issued an executive order directing federal agencies to provide citizenship information to the Department of Commerce.

The president’s executive order stated in part, “I have determined that it is imperative that all executive departments and agencies (agencies) provide the Department the maximum assistance permissible, consistent with law, in determining the number of citizens and non-citizens in the country, including by providing any access that the Department may request to administrative records that may be useful in accomplishing that objective.”

Attorney General William Barr stated that the decision ended the ongoing litigation surrounding the citizenship question on the census.

Here’s a summary of how we got here:

  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross approved the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census in March 2018, arguing that the question would improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The question asked, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”

  • The question was blocked by lower courts on the grounds that it violated the Constitution’s Enumeration Clause and the Census Act. Lower courts also held that Trump administration officials had failed to follow proper administrative procedure under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

  • The Supreme Court decided 5-4 last month to both affirm the legality of a citizenship question on the census and remand the case—Department of Commerce v. New York—to the agency for review. The court ruled that the Trump administration’s decision to add the citizenship question to the census did not violate the Enumeration Clause or the Census Act. However, the court held that Ross’ rationale for adding the question to the census was inconsistent with the administrative record in violation of the APA.

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Learn more about the nearly 2,000 candidates who responded to our survey last year 

One of Ballotpedia’s core missions is to enlighten voters about the people running for office and their political philosophies. Our Candidate Connection survey tool – one of my favorite projects – had nearly 2,000 candidate replies in 2018. 

We were thrilled that 1,957 candidates took the time to candidly tell our readers all about themselves and their values. 

We’re getting ready to re-launch our 2020 survey tool – and we cannot wait to show you all of the exciting changes. In the meantime, here are a few more data points about our 2018 survey.

  • A majority of respondents—56.06%—ran for state legislative office and 21.67% ran for seats in Congress.

  • Out of the nearly 2,000 candidates who responded to Ballotpedia’s candidate survey, 477—24.4%—won their elections. Another 772—39.4%—won their party’s primary and lost in the general election. Texans made up the largest portion of candidate respondents—186—with Californians coming in second with 147. 

  • Out of all 50 states, only two—Mississippi and North Dakota—did not have any candidates respond.

Our 2018 Candidate Connection report also highlights a few notable candidates who completed the survey, identifies the respondents who won their elections, and lists all of the 1,957 candidates who sent in answers.


Florida group announces it collected almost double the required signatures for citizen voting amendment

Sponsors of a Florida initiative that would amend the state constitution to state that only U.S. citizens are qualified to vote announced last week that they collected more than 1.5 million signatures to qualify the measure for the 2020 ballot. The group—Florida Citizen Voters—needs to submit 766,200 valid signatures by February 1, 2020. 

The amendment would change the Florida Constitution to state, “Only a citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.” The state constitution currently uses the term “every citizen” instead of “only a citizen.”

A similar amendment is certified to appear on the ballot in Alabama in 2020.

All state constitutions mention United States citizenship when discussing the qualifications of an elector. Twenty-one (21) states use the specific phrase “Every citizen of the United States…” when discussing who is a qualified elector. An additional 16 states use the word “every” but structure the sentence differently. Six states use the word “all” or “any” when discussing citizenship and suffrage. Six other states have some other way of phrasing the sentence. 

Voters in North Dakota decided a similar measure—Measure 2—in 2018. The measure amended the North Dakota Constitution to state that “only a citizen” rather than “every citizen” of the U.S. can vote in federal, state, and local elections. Voters approved that measure 66% to 34%. Currently, North Dakota is the only state that uses that phrase in its state constitution.

Voters in San Francisco approved a measure—Proposition N—in 2016 which allowed noncitizens to register to vote in school board elections. New York City allowed noncitizens to vote in local school board elections from 1968 to 2003 until the city abolished elected school boards. As of 2019, 11 cities in Maryland, including Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, and Takoma Park allowed noncitizens to vote. Chicago has allowed noncitizens to vote and serve on its school councils since 1989.

Twenty-two statewide measures have been certified for the 2019 ballot in five states. In odd-numbered years from 2007 to 2017, an average of about 33 measures appeared on the ballot in an average of 8 states. In 2017, 27 statewide measures were certified. 

Thirty-seven statewide measures have been certified for the 2020 ballot in 18 states.