WASHINGTON — The Trump administration wants the Supreme Court to postpone a trial on the legality of including a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
In a court filing on Monday, a Justice Department official asked the court to postpone the Nov. 5 trial until the justices could settle a dispute over evidence, including whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and another high-ranking executive branch official should be compelled to provide sworn testimony in the case.
In March, Ross announced the Census Bureau would include a question about citizenship status on the upcoming census scheduled to begin next year. Ross said it would better enforce minority protections under the Voting Rights Act.
Critics of the citizenship question, however, claimed the move was politically motivated to discourage non-citizens in blue-leaning states from taking part in the once-a-decade headcount, which is administered by the Census Bureau under the auspices of the Commerce Department.
Over two dozen states, counties, cities and civil rights groups filed lawsuits after Ross’ announcement to prevent the citizenship question from appearing on the form, which last appeared on the census questionnaire in the 1950s.
The plaintiffs are seeking to depose both Ross and Acting Assistant Attorney General John M. Gore for insight into the internal debate within the administration that led to its decision to include the question.
The administration’s request to delay the trial comes after two lower courts last week denied a similar request by the Justice Department. Manhattan U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, the presiding judge in the case, denied the stay over concerns the case could not be decided before the government begins printing census forms next year.
Population estimates can have a decade-long effect on state funding and politics, impacting the number of congressional districts and Electoral College vote as well as federal funding.