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Florida Takes Center Stage In Controversy Over Citizenship Question On Census Form

| February 19, 2019

Whom to count. (Ben Cooper)

Whom to count. (Ben Cooper)

With the U.S. Supreme Court moving quickly to hear the case, a legal battle about a proposed citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. census could have political ramifications for Florida.


The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to take up the U.S. Department of Commerce’s appeal of a lower-court ruling that would prevent the census from using a question about citizenship. Opponents of asking about citizenship argue it would lead to non-citizens and groups such as Hispanics being less likely to participate in the census because of concerns the information could be used against them or family members.

While the Supreme Court will sort out the legal issues after hearing arguments in April, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman wrote in a wide-ranging ruling last month that including the citizenship question could hurt Florida and other states with large immigrant populations in the once-a-decade congressional reapportionment process that will follow the Census.

Furman wrote that “Texas, Arizona, Florida, and plaintiffs New York and Illinois face a substantial risk of losing a seat in the next congressional reapportionment because of the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.” Also, Furman found that a citizenship question resulting in population undercounts could hurt specific cities and counties, including Miami, in redistricting.

The once-a-decade reapportionment process relies heavily on census data. Nationally, the data is used to determine how many congressional seats each state will have. Within states, the data is used to help redraw congressional and legislative districts.

The Supreme Court case stems from a decision last year by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 census. The move drew legal challenges, including one that was filed by a group of states, cities and counties. Florida was not part of the challenge.

Furman, a U.S. district judge in New York, issued an injunction Jan. 15 against Ross’ decision to include a citizenship question. The ruling said, in part, that Ross violated the federal Administrative Procedures Act because his decision was “arbitrary and capricious” and that he “alternately ignored, cherrypicked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices — a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut APA violations.”

But in quickly asking the Supreme Court to take up the case, attorneys for the Commerce Department disputed such charges and said citizenship questions had been used at times in the past. The Commerce Department said Ross responded to a request from the U.S. Department of Justice, which said citizenship data is critical to enforcement of part of the Voting Rights Act.

“The Secretary considered but rejected concerns that reinstating a citizenship question would reduce the response rate for noncitizens,” the Commerce Department attorneys wrote. “While the Secretary agreed that a ‘significantly lower response rate by non-citizens could reduce the accuracy of the decennial census and increase costs for non-response follow up operations,’ he concluded from his discussions with Department of Commerce personnel, Census Bureau leadership, and outside parties that, to the best of everyone’s knowledge, there was an insufficient empirical basis to conclude that reinstating a citizenship question would, in fact, materially affect response rates.”

Reapportionment is a closely watched process after each census, with some states losing congressional seats and others gaining seats, depending on population shifts. Florida has 27 congressional seats and continues to see steady population growth, which could lead to additional seats in 2022.

For example, the Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks election issues and is part of the New York University School of Law, has projected that Florida could pick up two additional congressional seats after the 2020 census. But Furman’s ruling last month indicates that including a citizenship question on the census could threaten at least part of the additional political clout.

The ruling also said that a population undercount in Florida could affect federal funding that flows to the state for programs such as Medicaid. A variety of federal programs use census data to help determine how much money states should receive.

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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10 Responses for “Florida Takes Center Stage In Controversy Over Citizenship Question On Census Form”

  1. Mark says:

    Since our country is inundated by non-citizens, it is a perfectly legitimate question.

  2. Dave says:

    This type of questioning has no place in the census, if anything the census wont be answered correctly and the numbers will skew to a non factual outcome rendering the whole thing pointless. Let’s face it, we are all here illegally. Except for the Native Americans.

  3. Pinion says:

    Our once-a-decade reapportionment process relies heavily on this census data. Nationally, the data is used to determine how many congressional seats each state will have. Within states, the data is used to help redraw congressional and legislative districts : any non-citizens effects on these numbers is wrong, wrong, wrong to our country, to citizens. I can’t even believe any one would consider this a legitimate question.

  4. Local says:

    If they are here legally then they should have no problem answering the question. Most will throw them away because they cant read our language. How about adding thebquestion “do we need more INS agents?”

  5. Traveling Rep says:

    You would have to be a meathead to believe that as a non-native american US citizen you are somehow an illegal alien.

    The question of citizenship is very fair, and we certainly should not feel concerned about the feelings the question may stir in those illegals that have broken our laws. Where is your spine dems? Quit catering to illegal immigration, traitors!

  6. Bill says:

    “the citizenship question could hurt Florida and other states with large immigrant populations” THIS is wrong it will not harm any State with immigrant populations. Unless one considers ILLEGAL aliens as the same as legal law abiding immigrants. IMO why would we count ILLEGALS as Americans if so then Orlando should be able to count ALL the TOURISTS from all over the Nation and other Nations as citizens of Orlando.

  7. Sherry says:

    The data collected by the CENSUS is to determine the number of “human beings” living in the United States. . regardless of “how” they came to be here.

    The census provides “critical data” to determine such things as allocation of money for vital services such as public health, education and highways in addition to the political ramifications in the Congressional House of Representatives. The attempt to count ONLY those who can easily PROVE their citizenship and to pretend that everyone else doesn’t exist , or to drive all others deeper underground for fear of being harrassed by ICE is not only ludacris but unconscionable..

    This from the US Census Bureau. . .Take a good read:

    How Our Data Are Used
    To determine the distribution of Congressional seats to states.
    Mandated by the U.S. Constitution
    Used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives
    Used to define legislature districts, school district assignment areas and other important functional areas of government
    Find out about the 2020 Census Redistricting Data Program

    To make planning decisions about community services, such as where to:
    Provide services for the elderly
    Build new roads and schools
    Locate job training centers
    To distribute more than $675 billion in federal funds to local, state and tribal governments each year.
    Census data informs how states and communities allocate funding for:

    Neighborhood improvements
    Public health
    Education
    Transportation
    Much more
    To provide Age Search information for:
    Qualifying for Social Security and other retirement benefits
    Passport applications
    Proving relationship in settling estates
    Researching family history or a historical topic

  8. Richard says:

    Gerrymandering by the left exists and will alter the future forever! Just another way to politically corrupt this country. Sometimes I am amazed at what few brains and common sense some people exhibit.

  9. Dave says:

    Coming from an county that has a high school named after the slaughter and massacre of our Native Americans(Matanzas) I would think the fact that we killed all legal citizens of this country and took the rights illegally, Is pretty clear and obvious and not meat headish at all. In fact to deny this logic is quit closed minded

  10. Bill says:

    Dave, pretty sure “matanzas” refers to the Spanish massacre of the French at the inlet.

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