public-policy article

National Assembly Joins Supreme Court Briefs in Census Case

April 4, 2019

On Monday, the National Assembly joined two “friends of the court” briefs in support of the respondents in the case before the Supreme Court addressing the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. One brief, led by the National Council of Nonprofits, detailed how the citizenship question would have a negative impact on nonprofit funding and sustainability, data and effectiveness, and erode public trust in the federal government. The citizenship question would put the accuracy of the census count at risk and could cost states, and the nonprofits they contract with to provide services, billions of dollars over the next decade. Nonprofits also use census data to make important decisions about how and where to focus their efforts, and an inaccurate census would undermine that process because those decisions would be based on faulty numbers. The brief also argued that the addition of the citizenship question violated both the Census Act and the Administrative Procedures Act, and must be, therefore, removed from the questionnaire.

The National Assembly also joined more than 175 organizations in a brief submitted by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Brennan Center for Justice. This brief stressed the scope of the reduced response rate that would result from the addition of the question, and that the question serves no legitimate purpose.

“[The] claim that a citizenship question will advance the interests of the [Voting Rights Act] VRA is implausible on its face. Existing citizenship data have proven more than adequate to enforce Section 2 of the VRA. And, given the risk of a systematic undercount, the inclusion of a citizenship question on the decennial census will not result in useful data for the litigation of Section 2 cases. Instead, adding a citizenship question will harm the very populations that the VRA is intended to protect.”

With federal legislation to remove the citizenship question unlikely, the outcome of this case will greatly impact the human service sector and our country as whole. The National Assembly is proud to stand with these organizations to bring the impact of the citizenship question into focus for the Court.