Census question case in Maryland moving ahead

I bet some of you thought this issue was already dead and buried, but it’s apparently not. Despite the Supreme Court kicking the challenge to having the citizenship question on all census forms next year back for clarification, the case challenging it in Maryland is moving forward. Had the White House abandoned the effort after the Supreme Court ruling, this case likely would have been abandoned. But since the President is still weighing several options to prevail, onward we go. The focus of this case, however, has less to do with whether we should include the question and more to do with why the administration wanted it added in the first place. (NPR)

A federal judge in Maryland is moving forward with a case that claims the Trump administration intended to discriminate against immigrant communities of color by adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

U.S. District Judge George Hazel ordered proceedings to continue after lawyers with the Justice Department confirmed in a court filing Friday that they are still exploring possible ways to add the question — “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” — to the census form. On Wednesday, President Trump indicated that he wants to find a way to do that would be acceptable to the Supreme Court…

Judge Hazel’s order means that as the Trump administration prolongs the legal fight to add a citizenship question, more evidence may be revealed in court about how and exactly why the administration tried to include a citizenship question on the census.

Just from the standpoint of pure logistics, it seems as if we’re beating a dead horse here. We’ve already missed the deadline to begin printing the forms and the order was sent over on Monday to start printing. (It now sounds as if that was delayed again, however.) It’s not that we can’t finish printing them on time with a late start, but every delay drives up the total cost. Of course, when you find a politician from either party who actually gives a hoot about the deficit, let me know.

The bizarre ruling from Chief Justice John Roberts leaves me wondering if there’s any use in batting this question around any longer. After all, the courts aren’t saying you can’t ask the citizenship question. They’re asking the administration to justify why they want the question asked, presumably thinking it would be fine as long as they come up with an acceptable answer.

Stranger still was the portion of the ruling that openly acknowledged the fact that the citizenship question has been asked of tens of millions of respondents on one form or another nearly every decade since before most of the people debating this issue were born. So has every previous census been invalid? Obviously not. This wouldn’t even be an issue if it wasn’t the Bad Orange Man making the request.

But just to be fair to the detractors, we’ve also run the census repeatedly where literally hundreds of millions of people weren’t asked the question and I haven’t noticed any impediments to enforcing the Voting Rights Act being discussed up until now. This would be good information to have and I supported the administration’s efforts to add it, but at the end of the day, we have to obey the Constitution and get on with taking the census. We’ve done this enough times by now that we know how long it takes to get all the forms printed and distributed on time. Sometimes you have to know when you’ve reached the point where it’s better to live to fight another day.