Moving with unusual speed, the Supreme Court on Monday set the stage for acting soon – probably on Friday – on the constitutional controversy over asking everyone living in America about their citizenship, as part of the 2020 census. At issue at this point is whether the Justices will take up directly, without waiting for further action in lower courts, the dispute over the contents of the questionnaire that will go to every household across the nation next year. The outcome of the controversy may have a major influence on dividing up seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, on drawing up new election district maps at all levels of government, and about the distribution of billions of dollars in federal money. Although there is a clear dispute among the two sides in the controversy about the legality of adding the citizenship question, everyone involved has now agreed that an answer needs to be forthcoming before the Supreme Court finishes its current term, probably in late June.
Joining Monday in urging that swift review were the leaders of both parties in the House of Representatives itself – although the two parties’ leaders do not agree on how the Court should decide the fate of the citizenship question. The Democrats’ political interests are aligned with the opposition to that question, and the Republicans’ might well benefit from having the question asked.
With opening legal filings completed, the Court’s staff placed the census dispute on the agenda for the Justices’ private conference on Friday morning. Given the fact that all involved say that the timing is short, the Justices’ reaction could be announced as early as Friday afternoon. The release would be an order denying review at this stage (an unlikely prospect) or granting review and laying down the timetable for it.