The Atlantic

The Controversial Question DOJ Wants to Add to the U.S. Census

The Department of Justice requested that the bureau inquire about citizenship in the upcoming questionnaire, a move that experts argue could have a crippling effect on participation.
Source: Alex Wong / Getty

A recent request by the Department of Justice to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census could threaten participation, and as a consequence, affect the allocation of federal money and distribution of congressional seats.

In December, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the Census Bureau asking that it reinstate a question on citizenship to the 2020 census. “This data is critical to the Department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting,” the department said in a letter. “To fully enforce those requirements, the Department needs a reliable calculation of the citizen voting-age population in localities where voting rights violations are alleged or suspected.” The request immediately met pushback from census experts, civil-rights advocates, and a handful of Democratic senators, who say that the argument is unfounded and that the timing of the request is irresponsible.

The census is used for allocating , electoral votes, as well as for the apportionment of House districts—that is, deciding how many representatives a state sends to Congress each year.

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