Ethics & Public Policy Center

The Real Reason the 2020 Census Should Include a Citizenship Question

Published in The Washington Post on July 14, 2019



President Trump’s decision not to include a question about U.S. citizenship on the 2020 Census questionnaire appears to put the issue to bed for another decade. Don’t believe it.

The fact is, the Census Bureau already collects data on the number of noncitizens living in the United States. Its annual American Community Survey includes a citizenship question on more than 2 million surveys each year. The bureau then uses that data to estimate the number of citizens and noncitizens living in each state, county and city. Indeed, the bureau’s data allows it to estimate the number of noncitizens living in each political district in the United States.

The phrase “one person, one vote” is the cardinal principle that governs the constitutionality of our entire redistricting system. As established in a trio of cases in the 1960s, that principle means that every person’s vote must, as far as is practicable, have the same weight as anyone else’s when it is cast. Aside from the U.S. Senate, which has an inherently unequal structure protected by the Constitution, this has meant that districts must be drawn to be nearly equal in total population as of the time of the census.

But these cases were determined at a time when the share of foreign-born noncitizens was at a historic low in the United States.

Click here to read the rest of this piece at the Washington Post’s website.

Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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