John Roberts Joins Liberals in Big Census Ruling

Justices say Trump administration's explanation isn't good enough
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2019 10:24 AM CDT
Supreme Court Blocks Citizenship Question, for Now
The US Supreme Court building at dusk on May 23, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

If the Trump administration wants to add a controversial US citizenship question to the 2020 census, it will have to hustle. The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the current bid to add the question, saying the administration's explanation for why it's necessary just isn't good enough, reports the AP. It's possible the White House can still make it happen, but the forms are supposed to be printed starting next week. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, and the court's four more liberal justices joined him in the key part of the ruling—concerns over the Commerce Department's explanation, per the New York Times. It "appears to have been contrived," wrote Roberts. The administration says the question is necessary for better enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, but Roberts' opinion said that explanation is "more of a distraction" than a legitimate reason.

In dissent on that point, Clarence Thomas wrote that the court overstepped, reports the Washington Post. “For the first time ever, the court invalidates an agency action solely because it questions the sincerity of the agency’s otherwise adequate rationale,” wrote Thomas. Samuel Alito added: "To put the point bluntly, the Federal Judiciary has no authority to stick its nose into the question of whether it is good policy to include a citizenship question on the census or whether the reasons given by Secretary Ross for that decision were his only reasons or his real reasons.” Critics say the question is a gambit to help Republicans by scaring away immigrants from filling out census questionnaires. The census is supposed to provide a count of all people in the US, regardless of citizenship, notes the Wall Street Journal. (More US Supreme Court stories.)

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