Advocacy groups ask Supreme Court to delay ruling on census citizenship question

Politics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Groups challenging the Trump administration’s contentious decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to consider delaying a ruling on the issue in light of new evidence.

FILE PHOTO – An informational pamphlet is displayed at an event for community activists and local government leaders to mark the one-year-out launch of the 2020 Census efforts in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

In a court filing, various immigrant advocacy groups represented by the American Civil Liberties Union said that a federal judge in New York should get the chance to review the evidence before the Supreme Court decides the legal question.

Challengers say newly uncovered documents show the administration concealed its true motives and that the move to add the citizenship question is aimed at boosting Republicans’ electoral power.

The Supreme Court is due to rule on whether the question can be added by the end of this month. The challengers say that further proceedings in the lower court could be concluded in time for the high court to issue a final ruling before October, which the government has said is the latest possible deadline for census forms to be printed.

ACLU lawyers wrote in latest Supreme Court filing that the justices “need not decide this case on a record that omits or conceals critical facts about the true process and reasons for adding a citizenship question.”

The challengers sent a letter to Manhattan-based U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman on May 30 saying that during the course of their lawsuit the administration hid the fact that Thomas Hofeller, a longtime Republican specialist on drawing electoral districts, played a “significant role” in planning the citizenship question.

Furman on June 5 ordered further briefing on the issue over the summer, meaning that any ruling from him would come after the Supreme Court decides the matter, unless it agrees to a delay.

Hofeller concluded in a 2015 study that asking census respondents whether they are U.S. citizens “would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats” and “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” in redistricting, the plaintiffs said.

Hofeller, who died in 2018, had ghost-written a draft letter from the Department of Justice to the Department of Commerce, asking for a citizenship question on the grounds it would help enforce voting rights, according to the plaintiffs.

The Justice Department previously called the new allegations an “eleventh-hour campaign to improperly derail the Supreme Court’s resolution of the government’s appeal.”

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; editing by Grant McCool

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