In a trial that began in Maryland this week over the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, public policy experts, statisticians, immigrant leaders and a former Census Bureau director said the question would likely produce a less accurate count, and lawyers accused the government of conspiring to deny minority groups their equal rights. The trial, which opened Tuesday at U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Greenbelt, addresses two of seven lawsuits challenging the addition of the question, which Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced in March. Ross’s announcement, which came days before a deadline to inform Congress about the contents of the decennial census, caused an outcry among statisticians, former Census Bureau directors, civil rights organizations and Democratic lawmakers.
Opponents said the late addition of the question without the testing that new questions usually undergo would lead to undercounts among immigrant communities and affect federal funding, apportionment and redistricting. They noted that the bureau’s own analysis found that adding the question could jeopardize the accuracy of the survey. The government has said it needs the question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act.
Testimony in the Maryland trial, which is expected to conclude next week, continued as the Census Bureau on Thursday released the results of public comment on the 2020 Census. Of more than 148,000 comments, 92 percent pertained to the citizenship question and 99 percent of those opposed the question.