Our Opinion: Good census decision if it holds up
The Supreme Court has struck a blow against the Trump administration's attempt to politicize the census by introducing a citizenship question to the U.S. census. Whether or not it is a fatal blow, however, remains to be seen.
By the familiar 5-4 vote, with Justice John Roberts writing for the majority, the Court concluded that the Commerce Department did not make an adequate case for adding a citizenship question and in fact the reasoning for adding it was "more of a distraction" than an explanation. The administration may try to come up with an explanation that passes muster with five justices but the 2020 U.S. Census forms are supposed to be printed beginning next week.
The dilemma facing the Trump administration is that the reason it wants to add a citizenship question is that it hopes it will discourage people who would normally vote Democratic from voting at all, which it can't acknowledge before the courts. Its attempts to add the question were rejected by three federal courts, one of which concluded that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" in proposing the question. The administration appealed these decisions all the way to the Supreme Court.
It is critical that every vote be counted because the census is a key factor in determining how much federal aid comes to each state. Massachusetts' loss of population cost it a seat in the House following the last census, which led to a redistricting that dramatically reshaped the far western district that includes Berkshire County. An accurate count cannot be more important to the state and the region.
Last month, the New York Times reported that documents found on the hard drive of the late Republican strategist Thomas Hofeller, who was regarded as the "Michelangelo of gerrymandering," revealed that the census question was designed specifically to provide an electoral advantage to, in the words of Mr. Hofeller, "Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites." Specifically, it would allow for districts to be drawn that were heavily minority in population, giving whites an influence in the other districts that was disproportionate to their population. in the state One of the three federal judges who rejected the census question declared that the Trump administration obscured the role of Mr. Hofeller's strategy in making its case to him.
It is unclear if this information had any impact on the Court's decision Thursday but it clearly exposes the cynicism of the administration's bid to add the censorship question. Ideally the White House will abandon this effort, but if it does not we urge the Court to stand firm and keep the Trump White House from politicizing the census.
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