The Supreme Court appears headed for an accelerated timetable for deciding whether it's constitutional to ask a citizenship question on the 2020 census.
Both sides have formally asked the justices to take up the question this spring, bypassing the mid-level appeals courts so that a final ruling comes before this summer's scheduled start of the presses for millions of census forms. The dispute stands as one of the potential landmark "good government" cases of this term, because the outcome will significantly shape the next apportionment of congressional seats among the states, the redrawing of every House and state legislative district, and the distribution of tens of billions in federal aid for the next decade.
The census dispute is on the agenda for the justices to discuss Friday at their next private conference, Constitution Daily reports. If the court decides to take the case right away, oral arguments would likely be April 24 (the last scheduled day this term for those proceedings) or at a special session in May.
Those opposed to asking the citizenship question say it would produce a significant undercount next April in areas with large Latino populations because undocumented immigrants will be afraid to complete the census, which is supposed to count everyone living in the United States. When announcing its intent to ask the question last year, the Trump administration explained that it wanted to gather data that could aid in enforcing federal voting rights law.
Based on current population trends, California looks to be the state most clearly threatened by an undercount. Growth has been slower there than in many other states, so much so that it's already close to the cusp of having one of its 53 House seats taken away – which would be the first time in the state's 160-year history that its delegation would shrink.
Two other states with significant Hispanic populations, Illinois and Rhode Island, are each already at strong risk of losing a seat that might be saved with a particularly strong response rate.