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Trump may face more court battles over giving citizenship data to states

  • Published at 09:42 pm July 15th, 2019
USA-CENSUS/
US President Donald Trump stands with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Attorney General Bill Barr to announce his administration's effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census during an event in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, US, July 11, 2019 Reuters

Trump dropped the effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census on Thursday following a recent defeat in the US Supreme Court

US. President Donald Trump's order that all federal agencies provide citizenship data to the Commerce Department could open a new legal front over whether states can redraw their voting maps based on citizenship status.

Trump dropped the effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census on Thursday following a recent defeat in the US Supreme Court. Instead, he ordered other federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration, to provide relevant data.

The Census Bureau can combine such information with citizenship data it receives from a population tally called the American Community Survey (ACS), which is based on a smaller sample than the once-a-decade census.

If states use citizenship data provided by the federal government to redistrict, it would likely shift power toward Republicans, as Reuters reported in April. But it would also trigger a new wave of litigation, some advocates and redistricting specialists said.

Potential plaintiffs could claim that citizen-only redistricting violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause and other laws barring discrimination against minority groups.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will "monitor and watch what the federal government is doing and be very vigilant for any redistricting issues that might arise," Sarah Brannon, managing attorney for the ACLU Voting Rights Project, said on a call with journalists on Thursday.

"We will sue as necessary," she said.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on potential legal challenges.

Congress and state legislatures both rely on census data to determine how many political seats districts should get. As it stands, all residents count, regardless of citizenship or legal status.

But there has been a fierce political debate about whether that should change, especially in state districting.