Judge doesn’t accept privacy as reason to immediately block census citizenship question

A federal judge Friday said privacy concerns were not a sufficient reason to immediately block a question about citizenship from the census, declining a request to offer a preliminary injunction.

“The Court will deny the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction,” wrote Judge Dabney L. Friedrich.

She argued that the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which requested the injunction, did not sufficiently prove that the government needed to do a “privacy impact assessment” before it could add a question to the census.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross first announced in March of last year that he would add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census.

“The Bureau did not act contrary to the E-Government Act by deciding to collect citizenship data before conducting, reviewing, or releasing a PIA addressing that decision.” she wrote. “Nor have the defendants ‘unlawfully withheld’ agency action by declining to conduct or release a PIA earlier than they were required to under the statute.”

She determined that the government did not have to conduct the assessments until “until the Bureau mails its first batch of Census questionnaires to the public.”

EPIC said that it “intends to press forward with the census case” in a press release.

It is still unclear whether the citizenship question will appear on the 2020 census because other lawsuits to block it are still pending.

A federal judge in New York issued a ruling last month that the citizenship question was unlawful. The Supreme Court is deciding whether to take it up on appeal.

The census has not asked about citizenship since 1950. Critics say the question will discourage non-citizens from filling out the census at all, which is supposed to count all people in the country, regardless of citizenship.

The census helps determine how many electoral votes and congressional seats each state gets.

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