Groups ask judge to quickly block census citizenship question

Groups ask judge to quickly block census citizenship question
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A coalition of advocacy groups filed a motion late Wednesday asking a federal judge in Maryland to temporarily block a question about citizenship from appearing on the 2020 census.

The groups are requesting that Judge George Hazel issue a preliminary injunction on the citizenship question as he weighs whether there was a discriminatory intent behind the Trump administration’s efforts to add it to the 2020 census.

The filing states that the groups are making the request “in an abundance of caution” ahead of the Supreme Court’s anticipated ruling on the question on Thursday, in a separate lawsuit.

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“Depending on the outcome in that case, [the Trump administration] could attempt to seize upon the absence of an injunction to begin printing Census forms with a citizenship question before the [groups] surviving constitutional claims have been fully adjudicated,” the court document states, adding that would “prevent the courts from ruling on the merits of the claims.”

The filing argues that the groups would suffer “irreparable injury” if the census materials featuring the question were to be printed before Hazel fully reviews the evidence on the equal protection claims.

They have asked the judge to make the order by Friday, as the administration has said it needs to finalize census materials by Sunday and will likely start printing after that date.

“This Court has already found that Plaintiffs will be harmed should the citizenship question be on the 2020 Census, and new studies by the Bureau itself reveal that the negative impact will be much larger than originally understood during trial,” the filing states. “In contrast, Defendants will suffer little, if any, harm if they are required either to proceed with printing forms without the citizenship question or to forgo printing forms for a few weeks or months.”

“Finally, the public has strong interests in a full and fair adjudication of whether the citizenship question was motivated by discriminatory animus, and in an accurate count of the population untainted by intentional discrimination.”

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday sent that case on the citizenship question back down to a lower court, after the groups filed new evidence alleging a discriminatory intent behind the inclusion of the citizenship question on the 2020 census.

The Trump administration maintains that the citizenship question is needed in order to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

However, the recently uncovered documents concern late GOP redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller, who conducted an unpublished study in 2015 that found a citizenship question on the census would help Republicans in redistricting, while hurting Democrats and Hispanic communities.

Hazel, an Obama appointee, had previously indicated that he believes the new evidence involving Hofeller “raises a substantial issue” in the case.

The Trump administration has repeatedly argued that they need to submit final 2020 census forms by June 30, Sunday.

But these and other groups have claimed that the deadline isn’t necessarily final, and that the administration could hold off on printing the materials until October.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule Thursday in a separate case concerning the citizenship question. However, the equal protection claims raised in the Maryland lawsuit were not formally added to the record considered by the justices in this citizenship question lawsuit, opening the door for the lower court to still block the question.

The justices are scheduled to consider on Thursday a motion to send the citizenship case they’re considering back down to a lower court to allow new evidence, also involving Hofeller, to be added to the record. That conference will take place after opinions are issued.