Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court to Expand Census Case

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to expand its scheduled April showdown over the 2020 census to decide whether the Constitution lets the government ask whether people are American citizens.

In a letter dated Monday, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said the court should broaden the case to account for a new ruling that said the Constitution bars the inclusion of a citizenship question.

The court is planning to hear arguments April 23 on a narrower ruling in a different case. That decision, issued by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in New York, said the Commerce Department hid its real reasons for adding the question, violating the federal law that governs administration agencies.

The latest ruling, issued last week by U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco, goes further. Seeborg said a citizenship question would lead to a less accurate count, violating the constitutional requirement of an "actual enumeration" of the population every 10 years.

A census undercount in areas with large numbers of non-citizens could shift congressional districts and federal dollars away from those communities.

Francisco said that although the Trump administration plans to appeal Seeborg’s ruling to the Supreme Court, the justices can resolve the constitutional issue as part of the New York dispute.

Francisco wrote that the court needs to decide the constitutional issue to "definitively resolve whether the secretary may reinstate a question about citizenship to the 2020 decennial census."

The New York case is Department of Commerce v. New York, 18-966.

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